Tough test ahead for United


Evra-2941721Away from the transfer deadline day shenanigans, ITK Twitter accounts and the dreaded “Sky Sport sources” line, for Manchester United and David Moyes there’s the small matter of a second Premier League game in four days to deal with.

Having finally got back to winning ways against Cardiff on Tuesday night, United travel to the Britannia, which, while it clearly isn’t the fortress the press have spent the last five years harping on about, remains a hotbed for dire football, generally windy and unpleasant days and, more importantly, some of the worst fans the Premier League has ever seen.

Mark Hughes, the man tasked with delivering some good news to the Neanderthals of football, is presumably still smarting after being overlooked for the United job and his bitterness is likely to have been worsened by the two meetings between the sides this season, which saw United muster a comeback to win 3-2 at home, before braving the elements to knock Stoke out of the Capital One Cup.

One can only hope the weather will be slightly better tomorrow than the last time United traveled to the Britannia, when they skies opened forcing anybody apart from Jonathan Walters to seek shelter for about five minutes.

Weather-related issues aside, United should be fairly confident ahead of tomorrow, given Juan Mata’s arrival seems to have lifted the team’s spirit, even though it hasn’t produced a tangible contribution on the pitch as yet, while the return of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have delivered a much-needed boost to David Moyes.

However, with neither of the three having played much football of late, Moyes could again opt to rotate his attacking options – a luxury he probably wasn’t used to until about a week ago – in a bid to get his players up to speed.

Were the United manager to finally adopt something resembling a bold approach instead, Antonio Valencia could be finally put out of his misery and dropped to the bench, with Rooney, Mata and Ashley Young lining up behind Van Persie, as Adnan Januzaj’s talented young limbs are better kept away from the gnaws of Stoke’s midfielders.

With Rio Ferdinand still out nursing an injury – although he did, admirably, find time to wish his fans in the Far East Happy Chinese New Year, presumably in a bid to start flogging “5 caps” in China – and Nemanja Vidic in the last of his three-game ban, the defence picks itself – particularly now that Moyes won’t have to “worry” about Kenwine Jones, who was shipped out by Hughes.

In midfield, bar improbable and unexpected good news over the next 13 hours, United will have to make do with the tragic lack of options that has crippled them for years. Darren Fletcher is expected to return in place of Ryan Giggs, while Phil Jones could again be asked to “do a job” in midfield, given that Moyes seems to have run out of patience with TClev23 – if that’s the case, welcome to the club, David.

With our rivals for fourth spot – typing that felt terribly small time, by the way – unlikely to drop points this weekend, United must win tomorrow and build some momentum going into the final third of the season, not to mention that it’d be a shame to ruin a record that currently stands at 11 wins in the last 12 meetings against Stoke.

Stoke, however, will be desperate to avoid another defeat, given they’ve lost five of their last six games and are only two points away from the relegation zone, as Mark Hughes’ magic begins to kick in.

Expect them to be up for it and expect their fans to remind us all that they “support their local team”.




  1. If you could summarize your proposed lineup at the end of the article, it would make it easier to compare against our own formations. With Kagawa and Janusaj rested last week and Rooney starting on the bench, two of these 3 are likely to start at Britannia.

    I’d like to see something like:
    ———- De Gea ———-

    But probably we’ll see:
    ———– De Gea ———–

    • @Opti:

      Doubt very much Mata will play in centre midfield, you would be playing him out of position. I would like to see this:

      ——————De Gea——————





      Mata to play as an inverted winger comming inside ala David Silva to play neat combiations with Rooney & RVP and also to play those incisive balls into space for both Rooney and RVP. Width on the right to be provided by Rafael. On the left side, Januzaj will give us natrual width and it will come in handy as his ability to beat a man to gain a couple of extra yards will be good for getting crosses into the box for Rooney and RVP to get on the end of. Evra would not need to provide the width on the left plus as much as he used to be good at attacking i think that nowadays he gets caught out too much so him holding position on the left would be a good thing for us.

      Based on this we would have 2 options for attack 1. Playing and attacking through the center with Mata as the main creator comming inside to support Rooney & RVP and 2. Natural width on the left side to allow us to play wide and get crosses into the box. These 2 options will make us a bit more dynamic and not so one dimensional!


      • @Racs: This would be my preferred line up,too. I think it’s a strong and creative team that give Utd options, especially keeping possession when they need to. I’d probably play Fletcher slightly behind Carrick and give Rooney, Mata and Januzaj licence to interchange in support of RVP.

      • @Racs: I hope you’re right, but I do not see Moyes dropping Young or Valencia… Moyes likes pace on the wings, and Mata does not provide it.

        Mata will be in middle somewhere.

      • @Racs: Absolutely agree. Nobody can tell me this wouldn’t be (potentially – chemistry is all, of course) a far more fluid, exciting and mobile line-up than anything we’ve seen this season (with Vidic replacing Smalling when he’s back from suspension). Obvs not for the long term – Carrick and Evra need replacing on age grounds, and doubts remain over Rafael and Fletcher’s long-term quality and durability, respectively. In fact what this formation really needs to compensate for the lack of natural width are young, fast, top-class wingbacks on both sides, and strong holding midfielders to allow the AM trident in front of them to express themselves without fear of exposure.

        But of the currently available personnel this is surely the most effective and progressive formation. And it has a welcome whiff of modernity about it. Why did Moyes sign Mata if he wasn’t seriously thinking of moving to 4-2-3-1??

        And (to quote Hillel), if not now, when? 😯

  2. while mentioning united were done with the jan transfer market, moyes also said that he would be easing wayne and rvp back into service as they were not up to full speed yet and he didn’t want to rush them back.

    So i expect to see a similar lineup to the last one but i think fletch will be in cm and adnan will start as well. one of roony/rvp in front of mata. and the other coming off the bench to replace.

    Isn’t carrick injured? i thought he was going to be out for a couple weeks??? if he is cleverly will in…

    rafiel jones smalling evra
    fletch (carrick?)/cleverly
    valincia/young Mata Adnan

    would rather have kagowa on the right but probably not going to happen.

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