Friday 8 September 2017

Match preview: Stoke City vs United

The Premier League returns after a two-week hiatus with United set for the toughest test of our season so far in the Potteries.

Having won each of our first three opening league fixtures without conceding a goal, the Reds make the relatively short trip to Stoke in Saturday's evening kick-off.

Managed by former United legend Mark Hughes, Stoke endured their most difficult campaign under the Welshman last term as they finished thirteenth after a run of three consecutive ninth placed seasons. 

They've made a similarly indifferent start this time, having collected four points from their first three matches to sit eleventh in the fledgling league table.

That said, they are always a tough nut to crack, particularly on their own patch, with both fixtures having ended 1-1 last season - in fact, United have not won at the Bet365 Stadium since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. 

But this United side are a team in top form, and could welcome Ashley Young and Luke Shaw back into the fold after the pair stepped up their recovery before the international break.

Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are still sidelined and not expected to return for at least three months but the rest of the squad have reported back from international duty with a clean bill of health. 

Austrian centre-back Kevin Wimmer looks set for his Stoke debut having signed from Tottenham, while former United men Darren Fletcher and Mame Biram Diouf will both feature. 

Another ex-Red, Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross, will miss out with injury. 

The corresponding fixture last season was notable for Wayne Rooney's late free-kick which saw him notch his record-breaking 250th Reds goal and eclipse Sir Bobby as the club's all time leading goalscorer.

On Stoke and squad rotation, United manager Jose Mourinho said: "Stoke are always a difficult team to play against, they defend with a lot of people and they are dangerous in set pieces.

"It's a stadium where you always feel the pressure, so I think it is going to be difficult again.
"Hopefully we can be better than in previous years but it is going to be difficult, for sure.
"Now we play every three days and that is good because all the players will now feel that they are involved.
"The squad is strong, the players are ready and the hardest decision to make is who to leave on the bench." 

Form guide: Stoke L W W D United L W W W
Match odds: Stoke 11/1 Draw 10/3 United 5/4
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

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