Often seen as something of a bogey side for the Premier League’s elite, Stoke have held no such problems for Manchester United. Indeed, the Potters have claimed just one point against United since their return to the Premier League in 2008.
Especially with Stoke playing away from home, where their record has been overall less impressive and where they have yet to win this season, United will be confident of getting a win to try and build some momentum after what has been a less than exemplary start to the season.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have already fallen to two defeats this season and find themselves four points behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table. United’s defense and midfield has struggled in several games already this campaign, although there were more promising signs in a 3-0 win over Newcastle last time out.
United are likely to have Ashley Young back in contention after a knee injury. Defensive trio Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones are still missing with injury.
Ferguson will doubtless have been frustrated by the postponement of England’s World Cup qualifier with Poland in the week, meaning that Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney have all had a day less to recover from their trip to Warsaw.
Stoke have been the draw specialists in the Premier League so far this season, with five of their seven matches ending all square. Having held Arsenal and Manchester City and only narrowly falling to defeat at Chelsea, Stoke have again showed that they remain a tough side to beat.
Pulis could have a fully fit squad to choose from at Old Trafford. Michael Owen has recovered to face his former club, while midfielder Glenn Whelan will face a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra
M: Cleverley, Carrick
Rooney, Kagawa, Welbeck
F: Van Persie
D: Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson
M: Walters, Whelan, N’Zonzi, Adam, Kightly
Prediction: Stoke will go with a game plan to keep things tight at the back and pack the midfield, while trying to grab a goal from a set-piece. But with Tony Pulis’ side lacking the dynamism that can undo United, the home side’s quality should be enough to register a routine victory.
Manchester United 2-0 Stoke
Where to watch: The Premier League clash kicks-off from Old Trafford at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with an online stream available later in the day via FoxSoccer2Go.