Louis van Gaal looks on as his Manchester United side go down 2-0 to Stoke City
Manchester United fans saw much needed goals and a win over Derby County in the FA Cup last Friday, but it is the league where Louis van Gaal is losing ground and the visit of Stoke City will bring back bad memories. United went down 2-0 to Stoke City on Boxing Day, following a horrendous mistake from Memphis Depay and a generally poor performance all round. Can United score in the first half of a home game? We wanted to find out a little more from the opposition of what they think about tonight..
1) How would you sum up the season so far? Are you happy with progress?
1) What have you made of Stoke City’s season so far and have you made progress from last season?
It’s been a disjointed season thus far. A few marquee results have helped to keep spirits high in the lower spells of the season and we’re in and around where we’d expect to be in the league coming into February. The goalscoring issue is one that needs to be addressed and we’re still unaware of our best side, and how best to use it.
There’s a debate raging between fans as to whether we have progressed – no clear answer yet sadly.
2) You’ve lost your last two away games in the league (3-0 to Leicester and 2-1 to WBA) – what have you put that down to?
West Brom was utter frustration, but we’ve never managed to beat a Pulis side since he left. He tactically beats Hughes when it comes to the occasion.
Leicester was a result of team rotation and players out of position due to a lack of depth. We were all over the place, particularly up front, and were picked apart with ease.
In general I think the lack of competition in key areas and Hughes being unsure of his best XI have contributed to the recent dips in form, alongside the tiredness that stems from the fixture congestion.
3) How were the emotions in the League Cup semi-final against Liverpool? Was it a fair result over two legs?
Heartbroken at the end, but you felt it coming. It didn’t feel like it was going to happen for whatever reason once we hit extra time. I think the fact it went to sudden death in the second leg shows you how close it was. I can’t see Liverpool winning it if they played how they did against Stoke, however.
4) Marko Arnautovic is having a great season – how great a buy has he been since signing from Werder Bremen?
He’s one of the best and one of the most frustrating players you’ll see in your life. In his first two seasons he didn’t get going until the second half of the season, and that’s when he took off. This season he’s started from the off, which is fantastic. He can score now, too. And he’s about three times the size of the slender figure that joined us three years ago. He’s an utter beast this season, and I’ll be surprised if he’s here in September.
5) What were you thoughts of the 2-0 victory over Manchester United on boxing day? Are you surprised that Louis van Gaal still remains in charge?
It’s probably the worst Man United side we’ve ever faced. It didn’t even feel like we were playing against a big side when the match started.
I’m not surprised Van Gaal is still in charge, however I am surprised that he hasn’t opted to strengthen the back four during the January transfer window. Perhaps change in the summer will be beneficial for everyone, because while a lot of credit has to be given to some of the United team at present, this run won’t last forever.
6) Will Manchester United finish in the top four this season?
It’s definitely a possibility. It all stems on Leicester’s run of form I think. Arsenal will be up there, as will Man City, while I can see Spurs putting a serious challenge in this season given their team and current run. I don’t think it’ll be in your hands, but if you grind out the results you could well finish 4th.
7) If United were to win the FA Cup, but finish 5th – do you think this can be considered a successful season – considering United have not won the trophy since 2004.
I think it would, yes. No one will remember you finishing 5th, but they’ll remember the silverware. I think after a difficult few seasons it would help to revitalise the feeling amongst the Man United supporters as well.
8) United haven’t scored in the first half of eleven home games in a row this season – how optimistic are you that Stoke City can take the game to United and score an early goal?
Not overly! We’re good for an early goal this season but Old Trafford seems to be a Theatre of Nightmares for Stoke. If you offered us a dull 0-0 now we’d bite your hand off for it, especially with our current injuries.
9) What Manchester United players would you take to Stoke and what Stoke players do you think would get into United’s first Xi?
Smalling in defence alongside Shawcross would be excellent, whilst I like Herrera in midfield. Mata as a #10 to compete with Bojan would also be excellent, then the obvious Martial up front.
I think Shawcross and Butland could get into your 11 (despite De Gea being terrific), whilst our full backs are probably better than yours. I believe Arnautovic would also get in on your wing ahead of everyone else, he’s that good.
10) What is your all time Stoke City Xi?
Marsh, Shawcross, Smith, Pieters
Arnautovic, Bojan, Matthews