Manchester United begin their first of seven games in a busy December by welcoming former Red Mark Hughes and his Stoke City team on Tuesday night. United will be keen to continue their confident strides after having won three consecutive matches for the first time in almost a year.
Stoke arrive on the back of a narrow 1-0 defeat to Liverpool on the weekend but will pose more of a threat to United than the timid tigers,Hull City,did on the weekend.
Both teams have been struck by injury in recent weeks with United Talisman Angel Di Maria set to miss out due to a hamstring injury. Wayne Rooney limped off towards the end of the 3-0 win but Louis van Gaal says he has a chance of playing, “He said to me he is fine to play against Stoke”. There was some good news for United fans as fullback Rafael Da Silva confirmed via his Instagram account that he is back too 100% training however,the Stoke clash may be too soon for the Brazilian. Fellow defenders Phil Jones and Johnny Evans remain on the sidelines.
The Potters will be without midfielders Steve Sidwell and Glen Whelen who join Robert Huth, Dionatan Teixeria and Nigerian duo Victor Moses and Peter Odemwingie on the injury list. Former United Fullback Phil Bardsley could be passed fit.
United completely dominated Hull City on the weekend in what was their best performance of the season. Louis van Gaal set his troops out in a sort diamond oration with Michael Carrick and Fellaini anchoring and Juan Mata and Ander Herrera roaming around. One would expect that formation to continue. Robin van Persie got a well needed goal that should insure he continues up front with the inform Wayne Rooney. Should the captain not be fit however,expect Radamel Falcao to be slotted in.
De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Herrera, Mata, Rooney,van Persie
The potters generally set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and Charlie Adam should be drafted in to sit alongside Steven N’zonzi in front of the defence. The absence of Victor Moses should mean Marko Arnautovic,who scored at Old Trafford last season,operates on the left with the impressive Bojan Krkic behind Mame Biram Diouf.
Possible team : Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters, N’zonzi, Adam, Arnautovic, Bojan , Walters, Diouf
TACTICS AND KEY AREAS
The most pleasing aspect of United’s win aginst Hull was how they dominated the game and controlled possession, with Stoke likely to get numbers behind the ball and play on the counter attack,this could be the order of the day again.
It is in central midfield where United will look to exploit the most. Ander Herrera gave the Old Trafford faithful a majestic display and will once again look to be the catalyst. Should United settle down early the movement of Mata,Herrera and Rooney should be too much for N’zonzi and Adam to handle.
Stoke will look to take advantage of United’s wingers turned full-backs especially on the counter-attack. Valencia and Young had very quiet games against Hull but between Walters and Arnautovic (as well as Bojan drifting out wide) they will be kept more busy.
Michael Carrick will be key to dissolving any Stoke attacks and keep a close eye on Bojan in what could be a vital contest in deciding the outcome of the clash.
Stoke have lost their last 11 away games against Manchester United in all competitions.
Robin van Persie has netted one goal in each of his four Premier League games against the Potters in a Manchester United shirt.
Manchester United have the opportunity to win four consecutive Premier League games for only the second time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson (after four wins in Dec 2013).