Stoke City vs. Manchester United view from the oppo

Chicharito scored a brilliant headed winner at Stoke in 2010. Will he have a similar impact tomorrow?
Javier Hernandez scores a wonderful header for Manchester United against Stoke City

Manchester United travel away to Stoke City on New Years Day, hoping to continue their unbeaten run into 2015.

United missed an opportunity to close the gap on Chelsea and Manchester City, following the 0-0 draw with Tottenham on Sunday.

We are joined by Lloyd who blogs over at Vital Stoke, who kindly answered a few questions for us. You can follow the guys on Twitter @vitalstoke.

1) How would you sum up the season so far and what do you think 2015 will bring?

It’s been about par, we’re toying with the prospect of hitting the top half of the table. Once again, like last season, we seem to have really started to click at the end of the year, so hopefully the the start to 2015 will be as good as 2014 with the right signings and we can aim to finish higher in the table than we did last season.

2) Is Mark Hughes the right man to take you forward and what have you made of his signings and style if play?

I personally think he is. He’s very shrewd in the transfer window and brings the best out of those players and the current crop of players we have. He’s finally exploited the foreign market (Pulis just wouldn’t touch it) and brought in some cracking players on the cheap, and at the right age so that we have the chance to make a profit on it. His style play is easier on the eye than Pulis and has started to pay off away from home but we have lost some of the scare factor at home, something that must sound familiar to yourselves. It can be a bit frustrating at times when we overplay, but when we get it right we can give anyone a run for their money.

3) Where do you need to strengthen come January? Will we see another Bojan signing?

We still haven’t got an out and out striker. Someone who is going score us somewhere in the region of the high teens. There have been small murmurings about Christian Benteke, but I can’t see that one being pulled off.

4) Who has been your best player so far this season? And for that matter – the worst!?

Our best player by a country mile has been Bojan. He is different class; we’re going to struggle to keep hold of him. He has everything. He can pass; he can run with the ball, can shoot and even tracks back. He was forced to bulk up at the start of the season, but that has only added to his game and helped him adapt to the Premier league.

Our worst, well that’s a toughy. No one has really been poor to be honest. A few players haven’t really fulfilled their potential, mostly Phil Bardsley at right back who has been a little costly on the card count, but that’s all.

5) What have you made of United under Van Gaal? Improvement on Moyes?

I thought the treatment of David Moyes was very poor but you have seemed to come out of it smelling of roses. He looks to have got you attacking but you still look vulnerable at the back but I’m sure he will sort that in this window or the summer.

6) Who do you single out as the danger man?

It’s got to be van Periseeeh. (Sorry about the Andy Tate impression, couldn’t help myself) He has a tendency to score past us or get sent off, but he’s always in forefront of the game.

7) Which United player over time have you loathed but yet secretly admired?

I’ve loathed a lot of Man Utd players so this is hard because I’ve admired a lot of them too, so I’ve got a fair few to pick from. I’ve always had a soft spot for the baby faced assassin Ole Gunnar Solskjaer though.

8) Which Stoke City players would get into a United’s first Xi?

I think Ryan Shawcross would walk into your backline. His leadership and organisation is pivotal to the way we play and I think those characteristics would prove vital to you at this moment of time, especially at the back.

9) What is more likely; United to win the league or Stoke City win some silverware.

It’s more likely that we would win silverware. It’s more of the fact that Manchester City and Chelsea are so far in front of you than us realistically winning a cup. Hopefully we will have a good run in the cup though.

10) What is your all time Stoke City xi, with gaffer and three subs.

With myself being the right side of 30 😉 I’ve only really got the recent history to go off, but I’m going throw a couple of golden oldies in because of their legendary status at the club.

Manager: Tony Pulis

Formation: 3-4-3

Gordon Banks
Dennis Smith, Ryan Shawcross ( c ), Sergei Shtaniuk
Liam Lawrence, Rory Delap, Alan Hudson, Peter Hoekstra
Sir Stanley Matthews, Ricardo Fuller, Mark Stein

Subs: Jimmy Greenoff, Peter Thorne, Terry Conroy

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