Tricky United look to fell Stoke’s Giants

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Life was very different ten years ago. Tony Blair was a popular man, Girls Aloud were just forming and Wayne Rooney was still an unknown. However, the Evertonian has since powered through the game, astounding and frustrating in equal measures. He will look to keep United’s season on track and strike back at his own detractors with Stoke’s visit to Old Trafford marking his tenth year since first announcing himself to English football.

Form

Stoke travel to Old Trafford on the back of a performance against Liverpool that truly demonstrated the key to their continuous top flight survival. They are hard to beat. Having lost only one of their first 7 fixtures, Stoke look to be in a good position. Adding to this good feeling, Andy Wilkinson is set to return to defence form suspension, whilst Glenn Whelan and Mamady Sidibe are the only likely casualties. The awkwardly effective Peter Crouch has also contributed to the cause extensively so far this season, with 4 goals in 7. But, with only one win and five draws in these past 7 fixtures, Stoke also seem a hard team to lose to. To compound this, Stoke are winless in 13 games away from the Britannia and have lost to United in 7 of the last 8 fixtures between the two. With the Red Devil’s injury list becoming ever shorter, the stars are seemingly aligning. Young is expected to return to the bench, although Smalling is still struggling.

Match up

Whilst it may seem like mission impossible for the Potters, it could actually be the opportune time to visit Old Trafford, due to two factors; Stoke’s height combined with United’s troubling goalkeeper conundrum. With Stoke, on average, measuring 6cm more than their United counterparts, it goes without saying that they will be a threat from set pieces. Hundreds of previews will labour this point, however many will often fail to mention the hardworking Jon Walters and tricky Michael Kightly, who supply the ammunition for lead striker, Crouch. Charlie Adam’s dead ball capabilities should also be accounted for. If Sir Alex stuck by David De Gea for this game, the ultimate physical test for any goal keeper, it would how immense confidence in the young Spaniard and could be just the boost that he needs.

Things are a little clearer cut outfield. United won’t try to fight fire with fire, but will attempt to pierce Stoke’s hulking defence through incessant and precise passing. Only two teams this season have had more possession than Manchester United, whilst Stoke are bottom of the rankings, with a measly 37.5% and as such will expect to spend most of the match camped in their own half. One issue, however, will be the manner in which United line up, more specifically, their width. The current experiment of tight, intricate and narrow play seems to be working well, as exemplified by the dominating display against Newcastle United last time out. But with Stoke likely to pack the middle, Young’s recovery may prompt Fergie to change midgame should his narrow tactics come up short. After playing midweek for Portugal, Nani could also return after his fall out. Yet, if the Portuguese doesn’t appear at all, it could substantiate rumours of a January exit.

Prediction

There will be no prizes in the possession sweepstakes, with United likely to have the freedom to stroke the ball around at will. I believe, though, a tough and well drilled Stoke team will repel most attempts, at least until the wide men are released. I’m a firm believer that a team needs width to fully exploit the opposition, so I think United will ease to a 2-0 victory after the introduction of Young or Nani (or both). De Gea will also notch an assured performance.

 

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25 Comments

  1. Good points. A couple comments:
    1) Rafael could be a huge weakness due to his lack of height. Having Smalling injured might be worse than it seems as he fits well in this game.

    2) De Gea vs. Lindegaard is a tough one to pick for this game. As you say, picking De Gea would highlight enormous trust from Fergie and provide a proper test for the young Spaniard, but Lindegaard seems like the logical choice in this game — head over heart.

    3) I don’t think reverting back to 442 will yield anything better than our diamond formations for three reasons: (i) our wide players don’t look up before crossing (ii) our strikers are not exactly renowned for heading abilities (iii) Stoke are taller and more physical than us. Possession, quick passes in midfield, and a false 9 would split Stoke’s defenses.

    4) I fear for Persie this week. Stoke are known for physical play and van Persie is known for injuries. So far he has avoided most scares and I just have a baaaad feeling about tomorrow… one early bad tackle… I won’t say no more! 😕

    Overall, it will be a tight game with few chances but if we have our finishing boots on (i.e. don’t play Welbeck), we should pull off a comfortable win. Rooney and Kagawa to score. 2-1 to United with Stoke scoring too late to matter.

    Opti-realist 😀

  2. We should go in for Shawcross, have always liked him. As per some news, he has 18 months on this contract and United also have a first right to refusal. he is 25, fit, experienced and will bolster our defence definitely.

  3. Hope De Gea starts and improves on dealing with air balls.He was boarder line against Newcastle.I wonder how much they work on it in training since it has been his only major weakness.

  4. De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Rooney, Welbeck, van Persie.

    Dont know if thats a 4-4-2 with rooney/welbeck out wide, or a diamond again with valencia in midfield (he has played there before i think).
    Have to say, i know the welbeck debate was done last week so sorry for bringing it up again, but i really dont see why the guy is a guaranteed starter based on his performances so far this season.
    Id go as far as to say hes been woeful on the whole. His performances can only improve i suppose but still not happy seeing him afforded so many chances despite being so poor (especially when other players get brought up for it so often by fergie and some on here).
    And as for nani, well again left out of the squad, sadly it looks like hes all but gone. If thats the case, then its another stroke of genius from fergie, keeping hold of him letting his value depreciate rather than letting him go in the summer (bringing in a replacement too), as its obvious hes not going to be getting any more chances here.

  5. So Welbeck and De Gea starts. Good test for De Gea. I think wobbly welbeck will struggle here…

    Besides Nani and Chicharito, our bench lacks a real game-changer.

    Also, anyone notice the absence of Kagawa?? Is he injured or did he get dropped for “poor” performance?

  6. What a finish by RVP 😯

    I think the Fatman and Robin partnership is blossoming now, there really is no need for Welbeck, Scholes is also on a yellow card and should have been sent off.

    Since there is only one recognised central midfielder on the bench, bring on Anderson I guess for Scholes, Nani on for Welbeck.

    Go to a basic 4-4-2 with Valencia on the right, Nani on the left, Van Persie and Rooney up front TASTY

  7. First time I have not cursed Evra during a match at all because I have been busy cursing welbeck.

  8. And there you have it, United’s midfield parts like the fucking Red Sea, that’s what you get when you get cocky, you get punished even by Stoke.

    Take Welbeck off and put in Anderson, crowd the midfield and hold on to this lead. FFS Welbeck, you are about as good a striker as Evans.

  9. 3 points, great well done. I think the technical staff simply tell 11 individuals to get on the pitch and do their own thing. A world class striking partnership saved us today (and NO Welbeck wasn’t part of it), but against Chelsea I really fear for us. The fact that their biggest weapon is their impressive attacking midfield trio which is up to our defensive midfield to stop, and the fact that we don’t have a defensive midfield sets off the alarm bells for me. Not to mention they also protect their defense with a double pivot defensive midfield, which means little service for our strikers unless they play out of position. I think against 10 men Liverpool our no tactic strategy was enough but Stamford Bridge is a bridge too far unless Fergie and his cronies wake the fuck up.

    • @Moscow: Hopefully giggs was rested today with next week in mind. Were so going to need his and scholes’ experience there for that one 😉

  10. Three deserved points. Couple comments on game:
    1) De Gea saved us in the first half. Could easily had been 2-0 to Stoke.

    2) RvP (goal + assist) and Rooney (2 goals + assist) saved us in 2nd half

    3) Welbeck played well in mins 35-50. However, outside of his great pace, I found his passing, decision making, and finishing below average. On at least two occasions, he missed simple key passes. When he did make the pass and was in a good position, he made the wrong decisions — passing to RvP rather than open Rooney was a big one. Finally, his finishing is League 1 material. I counted three good chances to hit the target that were fluffed poorly. Let’s give him this season of obvious favoritism over Chicharito to see if he can improve significantly — he deserves a chance (again)… even if it means the end of Chicharito at United… If Welbeck does not improve significantly this season with all the unwarranted playing time, I want him sold to highest bidder. IMO, he is not good enough and will never be… but I am not exactly all-knowing 🙂

    4) Our defense is weak. Stoke’s 2nd goal was atrocious defending from United and not just Ferdinand. If 3-4 defenders cannot communicate properly to shut off a single attacker with the ball, I do not fancy our chances against proper opposition [read: Chelsea, City, UCL knockout].

    5) Given omission of Kagawa, I will be happy with three pts and goals, but we cannot play like this against proper opposition. We need diamond formation back with Rooney and RvP up fronts and Kagawa in hole.

    6) Chelsea and City were impressive, Chelsea more so. Looking like a tough season and our performance at SB will tell a lot about our abilities and potential success this season.

    COME ON YOU REDS!!!

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