Stoke City vs Manchester United: Preview

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StokeUnitedHaving edged into the fourth round of the Carling Cup, albeit with an ultimately monotonous performance, the Premier League returns for United on Saturday and a somewhat tricky trip to the Britannia Stadium awaits.

Stoke have started the season in a pretty decent fashion having picked up seven points already and been extremely unfortunate not to have come away with something more last weekend against Bolton and previously against Chelsea too.

You would expect that will give them legitimate confidence that they are capable of getting something against us and expect nothing short of a hard-fought and closely contested encounter.

The corresponding fixture last season was a noticeably tight and tense affair, certainly from a United perspective, as a late winner from a certain Argentine striker claimed all three points against the resilient Potters on Boxing Day.

Ferguson rung the changes on Wednesday evening and expect similarly wholesale changes as the league focus returns. The major confirmed team news is that Ben Foster, who hardly covered himself in glory with his display in the Manchester derby, will continue to deputise for Edwin van der Sar.

The back-four almost inevitably picks itself, with Patrice Evra and John O’Shea returning at full-back while Rio Ferdinand should line-up alongside Nemanja Vidic.

I don’t expect Sir Alex to deviate too much from the midfield that played against City although if anyone was to drop out, I would expect it to be Anderson and Park for Scholes and Nani respectively.

That should see Ryan Giggs keep his place in the starting eleven and after having run rings around Micah Richards on Sunday, it was revealed this week that Giggs had created more goalscoring opportunities than any other player in the Premier League with 24.

It’s little statistical titbit’s like that that help give an indication of just how important the Welshman has been to the United cause thus far this season, even at 35-years-old.

It’s fair to say that going away to someone like Stoke may bring about a change in formation, although with the opposition most likely lining up in a 4-5-1 formation themselves, you would think it would be a wise move to avoid the temptation of going like for like and adopting the 4-4-2 system that has served us so well with Rooney and Berbatov lining up in attack.

As well as confirming that Foster would indeed be starting on Saturday, Ferguson moved to provide some good news regarding the recovery of a somewhat forgotten midfield man, Owen Hargreaves, who has been out of action for the last nine months as he recovers from double knee surgery.

“Hargreaves is back now and I hope the boy gets a break and continues his rehab without any further mishaps,” the United manager said. 

“It’s been a long time for the lad. Normally, when a player has been out for that length of time, he has been helped by doing his rehab with the other players.

“But the fact he did it on his own in America, under the guidance of Dr Steadman, is not easy.

“He has shown the determination and resilience to see it through, though, and he is now back with us.

“I feel that maybe it will still take us four weeks to get him into the rhythm of training again and get to the point of match-play, but hopefully he is on the way back.”

Stoke boss Tony Pulis, meanwhile, spoke of the departures of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, praising the likes of Scholes and Giggs for the way they continue to defy the odds with such assured performances.

“Clubs do not get over losing players like Ronaldo and Tevez quickly,” he said.

“It is very difficult whether you are Manchester United  or Stoke to lose a player who has been scoring so freely and creating goals for his team-mates.

“The greatest thing for Alex is how well players like Scholes and Giggs are doing. It is pretty amazing they are not just still going but going strong as well.

“It is amazing. When Giggs finishes playing he will be seen as one of the greats of the game, I am sure.”

While the Potters will no doubt have their tremendous support behind them whatever scenario they are faced with during the 90 minutes (plus stoppages!), on paper we certainly have enough quality and we are a side in form with six successive wins.

Stoke will certainly battle for everything and, in terms of physicality, they may just have the edge. Foster will need to have all his wits about him as Pulis I’m sure will be desperate for every conceivable set-piece (including the Delap throw) to be arrowed in and around his six-yard-box. One would suspect it will prove to be the ultimate test for the England goalkeeper following on from events in Manchester on Sunday. Let’s just hope he gets through unscathed.

Prediction: 1-0 United

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211 Comments

  1. @Redrich: I don’t know mate. In my experience when people suffer from performance anxiety it’s because they feel overwhelmed by their environment and when they know inside their souls that they cannot do the job asked of them. Valencia played for a small team and comes from a country that is small in comparison to the giants of the sports. All of a sudden he is thrust onto Man Utd and he has to elevate his game and justify the ridiculous amount of money they spent for him. He may turn out but again it’s a case of how long can a team like UNited be patient with players who cost them a mint?

  2. @Redrich: I still think the World Cup and subsequent price hike for players may force him to buy in January. Frankly, it would be good business to buy in January. But you are probably right. I know he won’t buy a keeper until next summer but an attacking midfielder is a possibility unless Scholes finds the fountain of youth, Anderson finds some skill to go with his big butt or Carrick finds the desire. Then there is always the Hargreaves question. Interesting times to ponder.

  3. @Grognard: With world cup coming up …
    1. If russia qualifies, Akinfeev will perform and his price sky-rocket to 20+ million
    2. With Germany, Adler or Neuer will be available on the cheap depending on who did NOT play

    I think younger players will come on the cheap after a world cup if they did not play much or at all, while stars or cup stars will require ENORMOUS (! 💡 ! ) fees for their capture.

    I agree with Redrich and Grognard: Go with Silva or Hamsik in January but wait until Summer for youngsters.

  4. This seems interesting.

    I think Neuer is the real target of United but they are using Rui as bargaining chip to say:”Look we like Neuer, but if you don’t give us a decent and fair price, we will opt for Rui who is similar to Neuer”

    BTW: What do they mean when they say “same school as Schmeichel”?

  5. @[OPTI]Madschester United: First off Rui is not in the same universe with Neuer. Neuer is a GK god. And when they refer to somebody as from the same school as Schmeichel I think they mean that he is a fundamentally strong but that he is intimidating and aggressive in his box. No matter how great a shot stopper Schmeichel was, his command of the box and his defenders is second to none. The only keeper I have seen come close to him in that part of the game over the past 15 years is Kahn. Neuer however has that element in his game as does Boruc. I literally get high watching keepers scream and shout out orders to their defenders. It not only intimidates the defenders and makes them shape up if they are playing poorly, but opposing attackers look at this guy and say “Hell I want nothing to do with him thus he has an easier time on one to one confrontations and high balls. That’s what Schmeichel was all about. The fact he was an incredible shot stopper and hat cat like reflexes was just a bonus.

  6. @Grognard: I think he did the right thing. Being here would have made life miserable for him with all the Nani hate. As it is this place has degenerated into Foster-love-hate fest. A similar thing with Nani would have made all hell break loose. 😀

  7. Nani’s perfomance on Saturday was down right frustrating, he seems to keep the ball for far too long,he is always trying to cut in and go for glory time and time again.While it’s assuring to know the boy has confidence in his skills, its not good for the overall team. He is trying too much to be ronaldo and doing what ronnie does.
    I wish he’d realize he is a winger not a striker, while its ok for rooney and berba to shoot at any given opportunity, nani’s primary job is to feed the strikers not seek selfish glory.
    He should learn from giggs to just KISS,use his pace and ability to beat the first defender and release the ball to the strikers. If he did that regularly, even the defenders would keep of him and always try and guess to whom he will pass to,thus giving him more room to work, so somewhere in the 60th minute he can now start to fulfill his desires.
    There’s nothing giggs did that nani cant replicate, he should just learn to make better decisions and supply better crosses to the strikers.

    As for the other wing, just because valencia hasn’t quite established himself as the cure for ronaldoism,I wouldn’t come down so hard on him, even ronaldo missed one on one opportunities,the more games he gets the better he’ll be,he should just learn not to hug the touch line so much and try and cut in like nani does, his crosses would be more effective if the were taken near the 18 yard box as opposed to those touch line crosses he delivers,which are easily spotted and caught by the keeper.

  8. @Grognard: Well, you start off with a rating between 60-70, judging by what position and your qualities are. But for each game you get plus points for your player in control, meaning that in 10 games you can go from 60 to 75 if you do well. Lets say me, Im gonna start out with sliding tackle at 85. If I make 5 succesful sliding tackles the first game, it will rise up to 90. But if I make a few failed attempts, lets say 2, it will degrade onto 83. The creater player will be very form decided, but you can choose when you think your player is complete. If you play 10 games where your player rises from 60 to 87, and you are happy with that, then the player will stay that. Its your choice! 😎

  9. @Footy4Eddy: Sorry for the late reply mate. I was busy all day and haven’t had a chance at getting online until late this evening. Disappointed I am with EA continual arrogance and spoon feeding towards good paying customers. Why do they feel they have to make everything a test or struggle and that one must have to earn god status on that game? I pay my $60.00, I want complete freedom to create my ubergod without restrictions. In fact I want complete freedom to edit and change anything about any team or player in the game whether it be skill, or the kits themselves. Total sandbox freedom in a game is truly utopian and that is one thing I used to love PES until they came onto the 360 and PS3 stage. Then they got lazy and decided to cut off their customers rights too. They just don’t get it. I want to be able to create as many players as I want, as many teams and leagues as I want and I want no frakken restrictions. Why is that so difficult for them to get? Fine, have something in the game that doesn’t allow you to enter a Ronaldo at 99 in an online tournament. That’s not so hard to program into a game. But if I want to field a team of 11 Ronaldo’s all at 99, I should have that right. As much as I love FIFA and EA, I think I also hate them with the same passion.

  10. @<a href=”#comment-84092″ rel=”nofollow”>Redrich</a>: I don’t know mate. In my experience when people suffer from performance anxiety it’s because they feel overwhelmed by their environment and when they know inside their souls that they cannot do the job asked of them. Valencia played for a small team and comes from a country that is small in comparison to the giants of the sports. All of a sudden he is thrust onto Man Utd and he has to elevate his game and justify the ridiculous amount of money they spent for him. He may turn out but again it’s a case of how long can a team like UNited be patient with players who cost them a mint?

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