Old Trafford, Manchester
October 26, 2013; 12:45 BST
Manchester United host Stoke City at the Old Trafford today as the reigning Premier League champions look to get back to winning ways at home.
Manchester United are currently 8th in the league table, having won just three of their opening eight matches in the league. It has been a slow start under new manager David Moyes and the fixture list hasn’t been kind to them either. United have already faced the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in these opening fixtures and have dropped points against them. But the bigger concern for David Moyes is their home form. United have gathered only four out of the 12 possible points from home fixtures in the league so far and have dropped points against the likes of West Brom and Southampton. This match against Stoke is a chance for United to put things right, as they look to keep up with the sides at the top of the league.
Stoke City are 16th in the league table, but incredibly they are only three points behind Manchester United. The Potters started brightly under new manager Mark Hughes, but have lost their way in the last four fixtures. Their last win came in August against West Ham United and they have dropped points against the likes of Norwich and Fulham since then. Stoke have lost three out of their four matches away from home , although two of those defeats came against Liverpool and Arsenal. This will prove to be another tough away fixture for them, and Mark Hughes’ side could find themselves in the relegation zone by the end of this weekend.
Manchester United have had the upper hand over Stoke in their head-to-head record. They have won their last five matches at home against the Potters and have scored 17 goals in that period.
Manchester United – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Darren Fletcher remains the only long term injury concern for Manchester United at the moment. Robin van Persie, who missed the match against Real Sociedad in mid-week with an injury, is expected to return to the starting line-up in this game. Defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are expected to feature in this match after missing out on the Champions League clash due to fitness concerns. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are close to returning from their spell at the side lines, but are unlikely to be fit enough to feature against Stoke.
Manchester United put out a good display against Real Sociedad in their last game and perhaps should have won it with a bigger margin. David Moyes will look to retain most of the team for this attack, except for the returning big names. Vidic and Ferdinand are expected to replace Evans and Jones at the center of defence. Ryan Giggs, who was brilliant in that game, is unlikely to start in two consecutive matches in space of two days. Marouane Fellaini will replace him in the midfield alongside Michael Carrick.
Upfront, Shinji Kagawa produced one of his most memorable performances in a United jersey against Sociedad. He is expected to retain his place along with Antonio Valencia. van Persie will replace Javier Hernandez upfront as he resumes his partnership with the in-form Wayne Rooney. This of course means Adnan Januzaj might have to be content with a place on the bench for this outing.
With 39 year old Giggs showing exactly what United were missing at the center of the park, the pressure will be on Marouane Fellaini to perform. The big money signing has had an underwhelming start to his United career and has a long way to go before winning over all his doubters.
Possible Starting Line up [4-2-3-1]: De Gea (GK); Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Kagawa, Rooney, Valencia; van Persie
Stoke City – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Mark Hughes’ main concern at the moment is the fitness of Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron. Shawcross has skipped training for the whole week due to illness and is doubtful for this fixture, while Cameron is struggling to recover from a calf injury.
Mark Hughes is expected to make two changes to the starting line-up that was fielded in the goalless draw against West Brom. Peter Crouch will replace Marko Arnautovic upfront, while Matthew Etherington is expected to replace Jonathan Walters on the wings.
Stoke City’s biggest concern at the moment is the lack of goals upfront. The Potters have scored only four goals in eight league matches so far, which is the lowest in the league. Incredibly, they have scored only one goal in their last five games. Mark Hughes has been let down by his strikers as none of them have opened their account this season so far. Hughes has most preferred Arnautovic and Kenwyne Jones so far, and it is time he looks towards Peter Crouch to provide him the goods upfront.
The Lanky striker has started in only two games so far and deserves more opportunities. One of the reason behind Hughes’ reluctance to use Crouch is primary down to the change in philosophy he is aiming to bring to this club. There has been a significant change in approach to Stoke’s football. They are no longer a side who would kick the ball up field and hope the striker makes something out of it.
Mark Hughes has changed the tactics of Tony Pulis’ defensive 4-5-1 to a fairly attacking 4-2-3-1. Stoke are now looking to pass the ball through midfield, and mostly keep the ball on the ground. While this approach was refreshing and initially brought in results, the goals have been hard to come by off-late. Maybe it is time for Hughes to show some faith in Crouch and mix up the approach in build-up play. Crouch offers them a different option up front and Stoke to revert back to a more direct approach when required. Against Manchester United, this might prove to be very effective.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Begovic (GK); Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters; Adam, N’Zonzi; Walters, Ireland, Etherington; Crouch
- Manchester United have won all five of their previous Barclays Premier League home games against Stoke City.
- Stoke City have lost more Premier League games against Man United than against any other side (9).
- Stoke have failed to score in three successive Premier League games – they have never failed to score in four in a row.
- Manchester United’s 11 point tally is their worst return from a top-flight season since 1989-90 (eight points).
- Stoke have only collected fewer points from their opening eight games to a Premier League season on one previous occasion – their first PL campaign in 2008-09 (7).
Player To Watch Out For
Steven N’Zonzi (Stoke City)
The 24-year-old midfielder has arguably been Stoke’s most influential player in the midfield this season. The Frenchman is the driving force in the center of the park in both defence and attack, and will once again be crucial against Manchester United. N’Zonzi has averaged 3.1 tackles per game along with the 12 interceptions he has made so far. His is also good in retaining possession and has been central to Mark Hughes’ change in style. He has completed a total of 468 passes at a success rate of 89.1%.
Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City
Both these sides are desperate for a positive result at the moment. United will come out flying off the blocks after their recent win against Sociedad and will look to amend their home record this season. Expect Stoke City to put up a decent fight, but the home side has too much quality in attack to lose this game. Stoke on the other hand will find it hard to score if they concede an early goal. Expect United to win this by a two goal margin.