Manchester United take on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium tomorrow – having won five of their past six games. Stoke City have also had a decent start to the season – beating Burnley (already one thing United haven’t done this season), Bolton and earning a point against newly promoted Birmingham – away from home. The Potters were also unlucky to lose to Chelsea at home – after a late Malouda strike.
United last played Stoke on boxing day last year – where a single Carlos Tevez strike was enough to ensure all three points. United also beat Stoke 5-0 at Old Trafford in November – with Danny Welbeck (pictured above) netting at absolute screamer – right in front of the Stretford End.
In the league – United have played Stoke 72 times, winning 28, drawing 24 and losing 20 – not an exceptionally great record, although (excluding last season) the last time the two clubs met was at Old Trafford in April 1985 – with another 5-0 scoreline. Stoke won the home game 2-1 (ironically on boxing day). The first match between the two sides ended with a 7-1 drumming back in 1893 – when United were known as Newton Heath (for our Stoke City readers – Manchester United became official on April 26th 1902).
Talk of the town last season was of Rory Delap’s freakishly long throw, which although is extremely dangerous – didn’t cause Chelsea too much trouble. Delap had four throw in’s that day (in attacking areas) – and failed to find a Stoke player. Against Burnley – Delap found Beattie once and I can’t remember to be honest if one of his throws resulted in an own goal that day. Regardless of the statistics United should have Patrice Evra on the post at least – Vidic, O’Shea and Ferdinand/Evans will attack the ball well – but Foster will be lacking confidence, which could cause concern.
Fergie spoke today about the fantastic support Stoke City have and he believes they could be the nosiest in the country:
“They have a fantastic support, they say it’s the noisiest in the country and I wouldn’t disagree with that and last season would be about survival, because for anyone coming out of that Championship into the Premiership it’s not easy, but you can sense when I was there last year, there was a, for my mind, a marked change, a club on the up, good ambition about it, good manager, structure and Chairman and I think that they are going to be a force. Stoke are a club on the way up. They had a very good home record last season, so we know it’s not going to be an easy game. But the form of the team is coming and hopefully we can continue that way.”
Fergie also spoke highly of the three United players current plying their trade at the Britannia:
“He’s done fantastic. We’ve got three former players there, all doing well. Danny Higginbotham, Danny Pugh, Ryan, they’ve all done very well.”
Although don’t tell John O’Shea its an itimidating place to go – he can’t wait for the game!:
“The derby win was amazing, but that will soon be forgotten come three o’clock on Saturday when Stoke are getting in and about you. Stoke have really improved over the last year and made some good signings. They don’t just have good battling qualities, they’ve got good footballing qualities too. I know Glenn Whelan, who plays centre midfield for them, from the Irish team and he’s not only a good battler, but he’s great from set pieces and is a good passer. So we know we’ll have plenty of work to do. We know from last season how tough a place it is to go and it was a crucial win for us, especially as it was our first game back after the trip to Japan. We’re under no illusions, we know how tough this game will be, but we’re playing well at the moment and hopefully we can pick up another three points.”
United are without Fabio (suspended), Rafael (shoulder injury), Hargreaves (Knee injury), Orbertan (back injury) and Van Der Sar (thumb injury) whilst Stoke City are without A Faye (back injury), Sidibe (knee injury) and possible Ricardo Fuller (groin injury). United’s top goalscorer is Wayne Rooney with six league goals – and Dave Kitson has three for Stoke City.
Prediction– United continue with their impressive start. 1-0 United.