Saturday 1 October 2016

How United can turn tables on Stoke with set-piece prowess

United can approach Sunday's encounter with Stoke City relishing any set-pieces rather than dreading them as has perhaps been the case in the past against the Potters.

Although Mark Hughes' side remain a threat in such situations, their style of play has evolved under the former United striker since the time when Rory Delap's long throw-ins would wreak havoc during Tony Pulis' time in charge.

United's renewed power and prowess from set-pieces came to the fore in last week's emphatic win over Leicester and the height and physical strength in the Reds ranks in already proving an asset.

Headers from early crosses into the box from wide areas has been a clearly defined tactic the Reds have utilised under Mourinho- largely to marvellous effect.

Under Louis van Gaal, United struggled both defensively and offensively from crosses and set-pieces when we had a 'small team' but the Reds look much more of a threat this term as we saw in last weekend's win against the champions. 

Chris Smalling scored a header from a corner against Leicester, Rashford's third and Pogba's header in the 4-1 win also came as a result of flag-kicks. 
United's last two goals- Pogba against the Foxes and Zlatan on Thursday have come via headers with the Swede's winner against Zorya our sixth headed goal of the campaign (Ibra also scored with his head against Southampton and Leicester in the Community Shield) and Wayne Rooney's goal at Bournemouth came in the same manner. 

The fact that match officials have clamped down on grappling inside the area- something that was noted in the aftermath of the Leicester win- could obviously contribute to more chances for attacking players from set-pieces. 

It has been suggested that the stricter rules governing shirt-pulling have proved to be the main factor why both Leicester and indeed Stoke have made disappointing starts to the season as defenders up and down the country come to terms with the increased scrutiny.

Despite Stoke sitting second bottom of the table- albeit only after six games- and without a win, Mourinho has stressed that he believes the Potters are in a false position. 
Nevertheless, there will be renewed optimism when United gain a dangerous set-piece, knowing that we have the players to make a difference in those situations.
The height of the side the boss has assembled has been one of the early identikits under Jose  and could be something to watch out for this term. 

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