Manchester United travel to the Britannia stadium to face Stoke City amid the continued media cloud cast by the Wayne Rooney contract issue. But as the striker has a ‘real’ ankle injury he will not take part in the match.
With affairs back on the field not exactly perfect, Sir Alex Ferguson needs to sort his United’s performances on the pitch as a priority. The team have slipped to fourth in the table, five points behind league leaders Chelsea.
United will welcome Rio Ferdinand to the line up after the defender was left out of the side that faced Bursaspor, though Jonny Evans is still out with a hip injury with Ryan Giggs and Michael Owen also missing through injury.
A similar defence to that put out against West Brom should start the match against Stoke and Edwin van der Sar under scrutiny after his blunder last weekend gifted West Brom a point. Rafael should continue at right-back after some good performances in recent weeks.
After conceding so many goals away from home, Sir Alex Ferguson will probably play a five-man midfield with Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher in the middle, flanked by Anderson on the left and Nani on the right supporting Dimitar Berbatov who will be on his own up front.
In recent weeks there has been criticism of Stoke’s style of play, but Sir Alex is unmoved by talk of an over physical side,
“Tony will have his team galvanised for this game. They have the noisiest support in the country, so we’ll need control that and keep them as quiet as we possibly can.”
“We have a good record there. We’ve had to adapt our game when we’ve been there in the last couple of years, and it’ll be the same on Sunday. They put you to the test alright, but hopefully we can cope with that.”?
“Tony’s strength is understanding the strength of his players,” the United boss said.
“They’ve gradually improved every season in the Premier League and Tony is a real good guy, with great principles.”
“His team is fair and honest, very tough, and there’s no quarter asked or given. We’re playing one of the most honest sides you can meet in the Premier League.” He concluded.
Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller could play a part after recovering from a shoulder injury, Though Midfielder Dean Whitehead is serving a one-match ban due to accumulated yellow cards.
Tony Pulis has been bullish and thinks his side can get a result over United,
“We’ve got to play to our maximum on Sunday, if we do that and we have a bit of luck, then we may have a chance of finally getting something out of a game with one of the two big clubs in the country.”
“We’ve got a similar record against Chelsea, although with one notable exception we’ve got a lot closer to getting something from matches with them.”
“We’re playing at home, so we’ll have to try and dictate the game. We know United will have a lot of possession, so we must try to do things that can affect the outcome of the game when we do get the ball. We have players who can do that,” he added.
Manchester United will take comfort from the fact that the Potters’ last league win against us was on Boxing Day 1984.
Having failed to win our last four away matches, the last time we failed to win our first four away league games was in 1989, so if we don’t win Sir Alex will have a record he doesn’t want.
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