Match Preview: Manchester United vs Stoke City

by Tom Parker

Following a convincing win against Real Sociedad in midweek, Manchester United return to Premier League action for a third consecutive home game in a seven days against Stoke City.

Optimism is high around Old Trafford at the minute after a convincing 1-0 win in the Champions League on Wednesday that provided a cause for optimism. Jonny Evans and Phil Jones continued to impress as a defensive duo,while Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa both put in fantastic displays, with the former having admitted to being given a new lease of life under David Moyes.

Despite the superb performance against Sociedad though, United were disappointing last weekend where they conceded a late goal to succumb to a disappointing draw against in-form Southampton. The result leaves David Moyes’ men eight points off early pace-setters Arsenal and behind fellow rivals City, Chelsea and Liverpool in the league.

Stoke have also not started their season as expected since they replaced Tony Pulis with Mark Hughes in the summer having not won in the league since late August with only two points from their previous five matches. It’s fair to say the transition from a huge emphasis on physicality to a more easy on the eye approach has been difficult and both team are desperate for points this weekend.

Moyes is set to rotate the squad for the fixture with Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie likely to return after being rested for the midweek victory against Sociedad. There are still doubts over the fitness of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck, while and Jonny Evans and Phil Jones may reprise their blossoming partnership at the heart of the United defence.

Meanwhile, Stoke go into the game with a relatively clean bill of health. Geoff Cameron is the only concern for Hughes’ side and Stoke-born Andy Wilkinson could deputise at full-back. Marko Arnautovic, Jon Walters and Oussama Assaidi, a summer loan signing from Liverpool, are all pushing for starts.

United beat the Potters on both occasions last season thanks to a 3-2 victory at Old Trafford and a hard fought 2-0 win at the Britannia, a game that saw van Persie end a barren run of goals with a penalty and a subsequent celebration of running to Sir Alex Ferguson to embrace him.

Victory for Stoke would be Mark Hughes’ 100th win as a manager in the top flight but it is a tall order for the Midlands based outfit who face a United side who are growing in confidence and fresh off producing arguably their best display of the season so far.

If Moyes’ men still harbour aspirations for a title run, they cannot afford many more unnecessary slip-ups so a win is something of a necessity and in truth, it’s hard to see anything but that outcome.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke

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