Reds aiming for six pack at Stoke

The Britannia Stadium, they say, is a cauldron of hostility and Tony Pullis’ Stoke City team the most aggressively direct of any in the Premier League. And while Stoke’s supporters continue to live with the bizarre notion that there is a local rivalry with United to maintain, Pullis’ team is a far better footballing outfit than the pervading popular opinion.

Manchester United head to the Britannia Saturday afternoon seeking a sixth straight Premier League win, in what is the Reds’ best start to a season since 1985. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men face a stern test of that record but, boasting a flawless record against the Potters in recent times, travel South in confident mood.

Ron Atkinson’s ’85 team won 10 straight in the old First Division before old failings were exposed and United finished a disappointing fourth. Atkinson would have only a year left in the job by the his side dropped its first points. With games against Liverpool at Anfield and the derby with Manchester City to come the odds are firmly in favour of Atkinson retaining one of the few records Ferguson has not broken in the 25 years since the Scot took over at Old Trafford.

In any case, chasing records is a notion to which Ferguson gives short shrift, preferring to concentrate on the here-and-now and another examination of his team’s title credentials.

“There is no point analysing our start in terms of previous years,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“I am just enjoying the moment and hope it lasts longer than normal. You know somewhere along the line we will lose a game or drop a point. That is a fact. That is the league we are in. Does it matter if you win the league? No it doesn’t. You deal with the situations as they come along. If we have a defeat, the next week you try to win.”

Ferguson will be without a trio of injured stars – Nemanja Vidic, Rafael da Silva, and potentially Chris Smalling, who has a minor calf problem. Captain Vidic’s return could again be delayed, with the giant Serbian suffering with an ongoing shoulder problem that has failed to clear. But United should welcome back defender Rio Ferdinand for the fixture. The former England captain has missed games against Benfica and Chelsea with a hamstring strain, but is likely to start at the Britannia.

“He has not done any training and just been having treatment,” Ferguson said of the 32-year-old defender.

“Calves can be troublesome that way. When Bryan Robson did his, it kept him out for three months. Rio’s [injury] record is fact. We wish it was better but we use him to our advantage when we have him available because you cannot dismiss the experience he brings. He missed a couple [of matches] after Bolton and one after West Brom, but I don’t mind that because with the squad we have got we utilise him the way we want to.

“We’re delighted with [Chris] Smalling, [Jonny] Evans and [Phil] Jones because the three of them have been magnificent and no doubt they’re the long-term future, but there are occasions when you bring in the bit of experience that Rio offers and it does make a difference. You saw at Bolton, he absolutely walked through the game.”

Stoke City versus Manchester United, Premier League, Britannia Stadium, 5.30pm, 24 September 2011.Elsewhere, Ferguson is likely to persist with the attacking quartet that began against Chelsea, with Javier Hernández having recovered from the bruised shin suffered after Ashley Cole’s brutal assault last week. While Wayne Rooney is rightly taking the plaudits, with 10 goals in all competitions this season, Ashley Young and Nani have nine assists between them in the league alone.

The game is also likely to be a major test for goalkeeper David de Gea, the Spaniard who has visibly grown in confidence as the season progressed, from the early mistakes against City and West Bromwich Albion, to the excellent display in last week’s match with Chelsea that prompted the Manchester Evening News to award the 20-year-old it’s man-of-the-match gong.

Indeed, de Gea has been put through a rigorous training regimen at Carrington this week in preparation for Rory Delap’s long-throw missile that proffers Stoke both chances and territorial advantage.

“It’s an eye-opener for any goalkeeper,” added Ferguson.

“I remember discussing with Edwin what his position would be in terms of the long throw-ins and where he was most comfortable dealing with the situation. We got it right then and we are doing the same with David. All the work this week has been on his position and where he should be.”

Despite United’s strong record against Stoke in recent seasons – a 100 per cent win rate since the Potters’ promotion in 2008 – Ferguson warns against any complacency, with Liverpool losing in the city last week and Chelsea held to a draw. Yet the Scot refuses to join in the chorus of critics about Stoke’s style of play.

“It’s never been a problem for us,” adds the United boss.

“Everyone plays to their strengths. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You see the progress the team is making. They have signed two or three players, they are playing European football and having a right go. They have a great attitude and their support is brilliant.”

Meanwhile, Pullis will be without striker Kenwyne Jones who is out after picking up a hamstring injury in the Potters midweek Carling Cup tie. But Matthew Upson could retain his place after a strong performance against Tottenham Hotspur this week.

Atkinson’s first dropped points 26 years ago came in a 1-1 draw at Luton Town. The Hatters now play in the Blue Square Premier. The smart money says Stoke is unlikely to repeat the feat this weekend.

Match Facts
Stoke City versus Manchester United, Premier League, Britannia Stadium, 5.30pm, 24 September 2011.

Likely Line-ups
United (4-4-1-1): de Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Young; Rooney; Hernandez. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fabio, Evans, Giggs, Evans, Fletcher, Pogba, Park, Diouf, Owen, Berbatov, Welbeck.

Stoke (4-4-2): Begovic; Huth, Woodgate, Upson, Shawcross; Pennant, Delap, Palacios, Etherington; Jones, Crouch. Subs from: Sorensen, Whitehead, Wilkinson, Whelan, Walters, Wilson, Shotton, Wilson, Diao, Jerome

Form
Stoke: WLDLD
United: WWDWW

EA performance stats

  • The Manchester United team covered a total of 76.59 miles during the 3-1 win at Old Trafford against Chelsea, with Nani covering 7.99 miles, Darren Fletcher 7.65 miles and Wayne Rooney 7.55 miles
  • Wayne Rooney scored his ninth Premier League goal in last Sunday’s win. The striker has now, on average, scored a goal every 53 minutes 40 seconds of Premier League action this season. He is also the Premier League player to have had the most total shots (24) this season.
  • Rooney remains the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top ranked player. United boasts four more players in the top 10: Ashley Young (2nd), Nani (6th), Anderson (7th) and de Gea (10th)

Officials
Referee: Peter Walton (Long Buckby)
Assistants: M Mullarkey, D C Richards
Fourth Official: C Foy

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Comments

  1. RobDiablo says

    Ed – It appears that you have included the injured Kenwyne Jones in Stoke’s starting XI.

    Peter Walton is an unknown to me. I hate it when no-name referees oversee United’s matches agains “physical” sides.

  2. Sidsidney says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    all the other top teams have easy games and we’re playing last…

    Next weekend looks like a good ‘un though, like last weekend

  3. Sidsidney says

    1642: BREAKING TEAM NEWS
    Wayne Rooney misses Manchester United’s trip to Stoke with a hamstring strain so in comes Dimitar Berbatov. Rio Ferdinand also starts.

    Fuck

  4. Sidsidney says

    Team: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Nani, Anderson, Fletcher, Young, Berbatov, Hernandez.

    Subs. Lindegaard, Owen, Giggs, Park, Welbeck, Fabio, Valencia

    Fletch and Ando… Can’t be as gung ho as they were against Chelsea. If one goes, the other must stay otherwise we’ll get done

  5. han says

    didn’t know rooney had a hamstring problem – club kept that pretty quiet
    anyway, this is a chance for berba to show us the form of last season – he will gel with sweet pea i’m sure

  6. SpudiatorSpudiator says

    Just seen on BBC, Johnny Evans has injured himself in the warm-up, so Valencia’s playing instead. Where the hell’s Chris Smalling?

  7. han says

    it’s all happening now…
    Jonny Evans has sustained an injury in the warm-up so is replaced in the starting XI by Antonio Valencia, who will play at right back, with Phil Jones reverting to centre-back
    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  8. han says

    Spudiator said:
    Just seen on BBC, Johnny Evans has injured himself in the warm-up, so Valencia’s playing instead. Where the hell’s Chris Smalling?

    he has a hamstring strain

  9. Sidsidney says

    han said:
    it’s all happening now…
    Jonny Evans has sustained an injury in the warm-up so is replaced in the starting XI by Antonio Valencia, who will play at right back, with Phil Jones reverting to centre-back
    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Rio must do 90 minutes then

  10. bman says

    How the fuck is that not a penalty? That is an extraordinary decision by the ref. Now Hernandez looks like he’s not coming back on at all.

  11. Sidsidney says

    Stoke singing “Swing Low…” cos of the egg chasing

    United respond with “World champions twice – once more than England, world champions twice”

    Calm down, Knob

  12. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    its good when some shite striker reckons he can skins jones and failed then a minute later jones skins him

  13. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    we’re relying on another goal from nothing from nani to win it, shite midfield won’t create shite forwards won’t do anything

  14. bman says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    we’re relying on another goal from nothing from nani to win it, shite midfield won’t create shite forwards won’t do anything

    That’s pretty much the situation. Time to bring Giggs on.

  15. han says

    well we could have lost that but for some decent keeping from de gea
    the mojo was definitely missing though and the injury to evans pre match and sweet pea in the 1st 5 mins didn’t help
    a point at stoke isn’t all doom and gloom

  16. Sidsidney says

    Could and should have maybe won that, but I’ll take a point
    Last season we would have had our arses handed to us without Hernandez and Rooney, so I’ll take a draw. Still unbeaten away from home… A huge improvement on last season
    I can’t see Chelsea or City getting a win here either, so we move on

  17. han says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    I’d prefer to describe berbatovs performance as ‘the usual’

    no he was fucking cocksucking waste of space arse fiddling bulgarian whore

  18. sheesh says

    I was getting pissed off with ESPN constantly showing close-ups of the inbred, neanderthal, shaved head, unshaved cunt Stoke fans. Put me right off my dinner. I hate Stoke City and their fans as much as I hate Leeds.
    All in all, a draw was probably a fair result. De Gea saved our arses on a few occasions. Then again, Giggs should have buried that last minute chance instead of sidefooting the ball like a fanny.
    We desperately needed Rooney. Berbatov was a disgrace today. You wouldn’t think he was fighting for a regular place in the starting line-up.
    Anderson has to be in the last chance saloon this season. That was another shite performance from him and summed up why so many fans are frustrated with him.

  19. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    I only got to see the first 30 minutes of this match, so I’m wondering what pair of top class midfielders shut down Anderson and Fletcher today?
    EDIT: Okay, that was a bit mean-spirited. Does anyone else think that Sir Alex would have done better to bring on Carrick in a midfield three, rather than Owen? Although Owen did pull a defender out of the way for Nani’s goal.

  20. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    clearly its welbeck or hernandez with wayne up front from now on, and if neither of them are fit wayne on him own, and if he’s not fit we’re fucked, the other two are just pointless unless we’re playing lower league shite or rolling over spineless prem riff raff at ot

  21. says

    Hernandez wld have done fuck all. It is Rooney – it’s so obvious yet many cannot see it. Given the utter SHIT that Anderson serves us, Rooney drops into midfield; Fletcher has to cover two positions – without Rooney you have no midfield support. Ironically, with no Rooney you have an even shitter midifield.

    How any of you can defend Anderson for the 3+ years of wank he has served up is beyond me. The biggest drag factor on our squad and he will get DESTROYED by any formation Citeh serve up.

    Taggart is being a stubborn cunt – get Ando out; if any of you want to see a young Brazilian with greasy fast midfield skill, application and puts a shift in, see Ramirez – wonderfully fit, gallops like young buck. Try Alex Song – power, position and application.

    Promote one of the reserves rather than persevering with this zero.

    No midfield means, pressure on defence which means goals against. Same in relation to connecting the team with the attack

  22. dozer says

    We should just rotate Giggs, Carrick and Fletcher for 2 positions until Cleverley’s back.
    Anderson is ok to be a squad player to cover for injuries, he shouldn’t start every game.

    Why Fergie chose to bring Young off instead of Ando for Giggs is beyond me.

  23. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    han said:
    de gea finding his feet and range today was a major positive tbf

    De Gea was very good… but he has to come and claim the ball, that Crouch scored.

  24. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Only saw the highlights, but a draw looked a fucking good result in the end!

    Giggs’ miss is forgiven (how the fuck can it not be?) but I’m still daydreaming that, rather than taking the shot on, he takes a delicate touch of the ball which rolls it on to Owen for a tap-in…

  25. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    every league game owens played for us he’s fluffed atleast one sitter by giving it the old airshot, was best giggs took it on

  26. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Actually, the best course of action for Giggs to have taken would have been to fake the shot and attempt to round the keeper. At the speed Begovic and the defender were vectoring in on Giggs, they’d be sure to clatter him and then, perhaps, the gutless/blind, no-name referee would have given a penalty.

    I hated listening to all the pundits saying that it was a good result, a fair result for Stoke, but once I got past the fact that United should have had a penalty and Stoke reduced to ten men early on, I did have to admit that Stoke wanted it more. They were first to the majority of the loose balls and created more good chances to score than did United.

  27. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    No matter what our starting 11 is… we’re just not a title winning team… without Rooney… and that alone should have been reason enough to sign Sneijder… or another player of similar class and stature.

  28. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    No matter what our starting 11 is… we’re just not a title winning team… without Rooney… and that alone should have been reason enough to sign Sneijder… or another player of similar class and stature.

    THIS^^

    I’ve been giving it billy big bollocks all week how we’d beat Stoke, and i was fucking confident…however, as soon as i saw that team without |Rooney I thought draw at best

    That same feeling i got loads of times last year

    And Berbatov…ffs…..true to form

  29. says

    I’d like to see this team in action:

    Lindegaard
    Valencia Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Nani Jones Cleverley Young
    Rooney
    Hernandez

    Pace, pace and more pace!

  30. ichiro says

    Anderson was poor but he has put in good performances recently whereas Fletcher has done nothing at all for ages. He doesnt run as much as he used to and other than that hes a very average player.

    Anderson is too predictable most of the time, thats why his passes get cut out.

  31. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Bill said:
    I’d like to see this team in action:
    Lindegaard
    Valencia Ferdinand Vidic Evra
    Nani Jones Cleverley Young
    Rooney
    Hernandez
    Pace, pace and more pace!

    Not to mention some grit in midfield that was sadly lacking in yesterday’s match. Interesting that, aside from Nani, Jones was the only one able to run through midfield and into the opponent’s box. I have no problem with Lindegaard in goal, but De Gea does distribute the ball better. I also noticed that he got down nicely to push a shot around the corner; it was the kind of save I had doubted he could make a week or so ago.
    I’d be tempted to substitute Smalling for Valencia, though. I don’t think he’d slow things down much, and he is a natural defender.

  32. says

    I really think our manager is starting to dick Valencia around. he plays as RB in an emergency role in the CL against Chelsea last season and he seems a shoe-in for that position any time Smalling is out. WTF? Without Rooney there was no need to go 4-4-2 really. We could easily have played Fabio at RB and then had Valencia ahead of him with Young or Nani behind Chicharito in a 4-2-1-3 formation. Valencia’s pace down the right would have pushed them further back.

    As for the ref may he be run over by a two ton truck soon. How on earth did Woodgate not get sent-off for such a blatant push. And then we lose Chicharito to it all.

    Owen and Berbatov? Was the manager taking the piss or what? Two sides of a bad coin those two!!! I thought Welbeck was fit.

    • shauno says

      I think SAF is looking to play Valencia more and more at RB. Often did the same with Lee Sharp. Good wingers often make good fullbacks. Don’t see too much of a problem with it given Nani’s form. I’d like to see Jones given a go in midfield can’t be any worse than
      Anderson.

  33. bill says

    De gea is making some goood stops but a united keeper needs to be solid and not make mistakes. De gea seems to have a silly mistake in him a game. Lindegaard doesn’t.

    • says

      Bill – I don’t think that’ll be the case long term. He didn’t make any silly mistakes against Stoke given the battering he received and pulled off two top draw saves, which, arguably, Lindegaard might not have.

  34. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Commenter said:
    De gea is making some goood stops but a united keeper needs to be solid and not make mistakes. De gea seems to have a silly mistake in him a game. Lindegaard doesn’t.

    I like Lindegaard and have mentioned being surprised that Sir Alex did not start the season with him between the sticks. I take your point about what we should expect from a United keeper and, although I think “silly” is a bit harsh, I will say that he still has moments in each match where he looks tentative and I find myself holding my breath and wanting to cover my eyes until the danger has passed. I think it’s one thing to be told about the speed and physicality of the English game and another to experience it first hand. De Gea continues to improve, though, and I’ve no doubt he will come good.

  35. Bill says

    Yep that’s pretty close to my analysis of him. The English game is different from any other style of football he has played previously (Spanish/European/U21) in terms of the pace and physical nature. He definitely has moments of brilliance in him. Luckily he plays for United so some of those mistakes are going to cost the team like they would for other sides.

  36. Waxfoot says

    Amazing how fickle everybody is – turning on Anderson, Jones and even Young (!) after one unimpressive game. Poor support.

  37. says

    We will see, if De Gea goes down we have a good back up ready. I wonder what the PIG is doing these days? Keeper situation not unsimilar to our striking one!

  38. reddread says

    Just watched the highlights after a weekend away. How the fuck was it not a penno? Fair play to Stoke the way they went at us, especially second half, but had we been given the penalty we should have, Woodgate would probably have walked and the result would probably have been different. De Gea impressed, Jones made his first real mistake when he lost The Freak for his goal. Mixed bag, really. One thing for sure, we need Rooney to play every fucking game…

  39. says

    I thought the referee generally had a very very poor game. But we can’t rely on the referee every game, that’s for sure.
    Overall, I thought the first half we looked good and we played in patches. Young looked a little off the pace, but you can’t expect peak play from all our players, all the time, and I think Young will play better when he recieves better service from someone like Rooney.
    Stoke were typically… ermm…. Robust? Their approach was just the typical hurl and burl, and not a lot else. De Gea made some top saves. Phil Jones is human. I was disappointed with Berbatov and Owen, who surely have more to offer than the poor showing they gave.
    Not sure what else, or why people are freaking out unnecessarily. I think Ando needs Cleverley back, because I think they combine better on the ball together. The movement in the middle looked a little off being honest. Fletch is still off the pace, though.
    Give it 3 – 4 more bad results before I’ll panic. I think this team has a lot of potential and will continue to show it across the season.

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