So, this Saturday Manchester United travel to the Britannia Stadium, to face Stoke City. So far this season it has been pretty plain sailing for United, being two points clear of Manchester City to top the league and playing exhilarating football in the process. On the other hand for Stoke, they’re Europa League new boys, which in the past has been a hindrance for Premier League clubs. The competition may have been a factor in their first defeat of the season. After returning from Ukraine for their match against Dynamo Kiev, they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Sunderland. The Potters will however be buoyed by their midweek triumph over Tottenham Hotspur in the Carling Cup setting up Saturday’s enticing contest.
Team Selection Thoughts
Sir Alex faces intriguing decisions in central defence and central midfield. Jones, Smalling and Evans have all been fantastic recently, but Ferdinand offers the experience the manager may desire for the potentially tough encounter at the Britannia. Doubts surround Smalling’s fitness, so Jones may fulfil the right back spot allowing Ferdinand to resume his role at the heart of Man United’s defence. With Cleverley out, it looks like Anderson will play a key role on Saturday, but the question is his partner? With Fletcher recently returning, he is looked to be fast tracked to the United midfield, however it has become apparent Carrick has bonded well with Anderson, creating a fabulous partnership, and flourishing whenever they play. Another possibility is Ryan Giggs, who was quite excellent against Leeds. After the appalling tackle from a Mr. Ashley Cole at last week’s game, Hernandez returns from a badly bruised shin, and has been announced fit to play. The Mexican or Danny Welbeck is likely to partner Rooney.
Here, at Sretford End Arising we spoke to 1863: The Stoke City Messageboard and asked their thoughts on the upcoming game:
A game that I’d describe as “bonus points”. If Stoke get anything, it’ll be a bonus as we don’t target the fixture as a game where we can get three points. It’ll probably be the usual 4-4-1-1, Expect Walters to work tirelessly, Crouch to be a “pivot” to our attacks with Etherington and Pennant bombing forward on the flanks and two big banks of four when defending. Weaknesses? There’s nothing that screams out weakness at the moment for Man United, they’re looking absolutely unreal this season. However, it’ll be interesting how De Gea deals with the long throws, even if they don’t have anywhere near the same effect as they did in the 08/09 season.
We’re hoping for our first top-half finish, we deserved to achieve the feat last season, but a poor final day against Wigan halted that. Asking ‘is Europa a positive or a hindrance’ shouldn’t even be a question asked. For a team that hasn’t played in Europe since the 70’s of course it’s a positive, for Man United, Europe is routine, for the majority of teams it’s something special, even if it is looked down on as a Mickey Mouse competition. How far can we go? Well hopefully get past the group stages, a draw away at the supposedly strongest team in the group shows we can do it, but Besiktas may be more of a challenge away. We should be winning all three home games though, if we do that we are pretty much guaranteed to go through with the away draw too.
Summer Transfer Activity
Thought we were three players short in all honesty. We could have done with a full back, creative midfielder and back up for the wings. I can’t grumble too much though as we showed our ambitions by signing Crouch, Palacios and Woodgate. Upson has been excellent and Jerome has surprised me in the manner of just how pacey the lad is. Woodgate brings much needed composure at the back, Palacios will upgrade the midfield hundred-fold and Crouch will score if given the right service. It was a shame seeing Abdy Faye go as he’s a hero by single handily keeping us up in the 08/09. He was an absolute rock but he never emulated that season, we’ve moved on and it was the right decision to move him along.
Stoke have had a cracking start to the season. Last Sunday at Sunderland was a blip, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. That said, we didn’t deserve anything out of the game. But we’re fifth, easily disposed of a good European team in Hajduk Split, almost beat another good European team in Dynamo Kiev and still in the Carling Cup. What’s been encouraging though is that we’ve been able to still obtain points when we’ve been below par. It’s the sign of a good team.
Premier League Life
Since promotion to the Premier League in 2008 Stoke have been kept very grounded by Tony Pulis and Peter Coates, so expectation levels have not reached ridiculous heights and we don’t suffer from Charlton syndrome. The training ground has been completely revamped, the medical department is gaining a top reputation for helping players with a history of injuries gain full fitness and maintaining them as well as managing to cut recovery times (Ethers torn hamstring but still managed to play in the FA Cup Final about a week and a half later. He wasn’t anywhere near full fitness but still made it onto the pitch). We’re also completely financially sound, a rarity for a Premiership club. The future is bright.
Tony Pulis announced his views on United this week, and he said ‘United are the best team in the world at the moment, and the way they’re going, they’ll even be able to beat Barcelona come the Champions League’, which most fans have translated to ‘we have no chance’. Kidology at it’s very best..? Perhaps.
United have a 100% record against Stoke since The Potters gained promotion to the Premier League, however Saturday’s fixture is no fore gone conclusion. With additions during the summer Stoke have various threats for us to be vary of, and the defence will have to carry on with their top form. A win could see one of United best starts to the Premier League continue, and with Manchester City hot on our heels, we’ll have to be strong at the back, decisive in midfield, and take every chance we get up front.
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