Reds’ rallying cry for Stoke clash

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed his squad to recover from FA Cup defeat at Anfield just three days ago, with the Scot’s Manchester United side facing Stoke City at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. The fixture offers Ferguson’s side a rapid opportunity to put the loss in Liverpool to one side and continue the pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Yet, with 11 players likely to be on the sidelines for Tuesday’s fixture, Ferguson’s side must recover the hard way against a typically committed Stoke outfit.

United’s record against Stoke at Old Trafford – eight wins in a row dating back to 1981 – suggests a routine three points. But with Ferguson’s players once again bruised by crushing defeat at the weekend, the Scot will do well to raise his troop’s spirits. Indeed, it is a season in which ‘recovery’ has been discussed far too often for some supporters’ liking: after heavy defeat to Manchester City in the league, when United crashed out of Europe, and now FA Cup disappointment.

Yet, Stoke, says Ferguson are unlikely to give United an easy ride at Old Trafford despite the poor record over the past 30 years in the Reds’ back yard.

“You know what Tony Pulis’ teams are like, they’re always the same with one hundred per cent commitment,” Ferguson told ManUtd.com.

“They all get stuck in and you have to cope with that. I quite enjoy that. When we used to play Wimbledon, at the beginning when they first came into our division, nobody enjoyed playing against them. But then I started and my team started to enjoy it because it was a challenge, a physical challenge in the way they played and a physical challenge in terms of trying to take control of the possessions and play your football.

“Stoke are a different team altogether from Wimbledon, obviously, but they still have the same quality of never giving in; they keep going, so it’s a good challenge for us.”

Manchester United versus Stoke City, Premier League, Old Trafford, Tuesday 31 January 2012, 8pm.Ferguson is again without half a squad’s worth of injured players. Long-term injury victims Tom Cleverley, Michael Owen, Darren Fletcher, Fábio da Silva and Nemanja Vidic are definitely out. Meanwhile, United will also be missing Ashley Young, Nani, and Rio Ferdinand, while Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are unlikely to be risked.

Uncertainty also surrounds Ferguson’s choice of goalkeeper. While the much criticised David de Gea phoned in sick this week, Anders Lindegaard left training  in a protective boot on Monday. The crisis may mean a recall to the squad for the long forgotten Pole Tomasz Kuszazck, who had been widely expected to leave the club this transfer window. Reserve Ben Amos could start.

Despite the ongoing injury crisis Ferguson maintained an upbeat mood this week, backing his players – especially the club’s much maligned midfield – to drive United towards a 20th domestic title come May. Indeed, in Tom Cleverley significant strategic hope is being placed, with United having failed to sign a midfielder of note for the past four seasons.

“Cleverley is doing a lot of running. He’s nowhere near the first team at the moment but he’s doing a lot of running,” confirmed Ferguson of the midfielder who has played just 58 minutes football since 10 September.

“Michael Carrick’s form has been unbelievable – he’s been playing fantastic – and we’ll also have Giggs, Scholes, Cleverley and Anderson, so that’s a great group of midfield players that will definitely help us. He’ll be a terrific boost. It will be great to get the boy back because I think he’s special.

“I expect (Young) to start training in the middle of the week, so he’s on his way back. Cleverley is two weeks behind that. Anderson will be ready this week, too. He’ll start training with us on Monday or Tuesday and then it gives me a collection of midfield players that should cope with anything that happens in the run-in.”

Meanwhile, Stoke arrive in decent form, some 12 points beyond the relegation zone, safety already assured for another season. But Pullis may be without winger Matthew Etherington who has a groin injury. Cameron Jerome could make his first start of the year after scoring last week.

Yet, for all Stoke’s progress the focus is squarely on whether United can remain in touch at the top of the Premier League. With Manchester City away at Everton there is a realistic chance that Ferguson’s men will gained ground on the Blues. But to do that, United must overcome both mass injury and the obvious disappointment of the past week.

“Every player at this club knows what’s expected. When you’re at Manchester United you know defeats like that aren’t acceptable. We don’t need anybody else to tell us that. We know it deep down,” adds defender Jonny Evans.

“We’ve played really well against Stoke in the last few games, both at home and away. I think we’ve dealt particularly well with their long throw-ins. There isn’t much of a run-up at Old Trafford on the side of the pitch, which will probably help us. We’ve beaten them comfortably over the last few seasons but they’re improving all the time and nobody ever looks forward to playing against Stoke.

“They have a different approach to the way most teams play. People have this preconception of them and think that because they’re a big side they’re a dirty side. But that’s not the case at all. I think they’re hard but fair and Tony Pulis goes out of his way to make sure they don’t cross that line.”

And that may well be a relief to the few remaining United players not yet injured! Yet, there is no doubt the fixture is pivotal to United’s hopes of silverware this season. Indeed, it is the first time in the Premier League era that United has been out of the Champions League and FA Cup by this stage of the season. Anything less than a comfortable win tonight is unthinkable.

Match Facts
Manchester United versus Stoke City, Premier League, Old Trafford, Tuesday 31 January 2012, 8pm.

Potential Line-ups
United (4-4-1-1): Amos; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Park; Hernández, Welbeck. Subs from: Kuszazck, Fryers, Cole, Giggs, Lingard, Pogba, Keane, Berbatov.

Stoke (4-5-1): Sorensen; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Pennant, Palacios , Whitehead, Delap, Walters; Crouch. Subs from: Begovic, Wilkinson, Whelan, Jones, Fuller, Etherington, Jerome.

Performance Stats

  • United kept pace with league leaders City with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the last Premier League game at the Emirates;
  • Michael Carrick covered the most ground for United in that game with 6.06 miles, while Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored for the Reds;
  • Valencia’s goal was just his second of the season, but the winger has also contributed an impressive eight assists;
  • Valencia has the joint second highest number of assists and the fourth best minutes per assist in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, with one every 139 minutes;
  • Ryan Giggs has the best minutes per assist rate in the league, with an assist every 117 minutes (seven in total);
  • Welbeck’s goal was his sixth of the season in the Premier League from 34 attempts. He has achieved 74 per cent of shots on target, the third best percentage on target (among players who have had more than twenty efforts at goal);
  • Nani has now delivered over 100 crosses for United (105), topping the Index, 28 crosses ahead of second place Sebastian Larsson;
  • Meanwhile, Stoke’s last Premier League outing was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion;
  • Peter Crouch covered the most ground for Stoke in that game with 5.8 miles;
  • Cameron Jerome scored Stoke’s goal in that game – just his second Premier League strike of the campaign.

Form
United: LLWWWL
Stoke: DWWDLW

Officials
Referee: Mike Jones (Chester)
Assistants: P Kirkup, A Garratt
Fourth Official: C Foy

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Comments

  1. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    sheesh said:
    I wonder if De Gea will start. We can’t afford any more fuck-ups.

    according to the paper he will lingard has a knock, will have to see. AMOS?

  2. han says

    you started taking the happy pills haven’t you unc?
    berbs will not start a game this season even against shite like stoke
    he must have run over SAF’s dog pre season for his arse to stay on the bench so often this term
    SAF will bring him on in the 86th minute, you wait and see

  3. Sidsidney says

    Amos

    Smalling
    Ferdinand
    Evans
    Evra

    Valencia
    Carrick
    Scholes
    Park

    Berbatov
    Hernandez

    SUBS: Kuszczak, Rafael, Fabio, Giggs, Pogba, W Keane, Welbeck

  4. Sidsidney says

    De Gea either fucked, a bottlejob, or is being punished

    I hope Pogba comes on for Scholes after 60 minutes. Unlikely though, unless we’re 3-0 up

  5. han says

    stoke will hoof it up to jones and crouch and work on their corners
    amos is going to need protecting from those twats

  6. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    part one sign teenage keeper for megaprice and throw in at the deep end when not ready, part two destroy his confidence at the first signs of difficulty, part three slowly and delibrately publically humiliate, part four sell at a substantial loss, part five watch as he becomes top draw spanish number one, part six sign given on free transfer

  7. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    sidney said:
    Pulis, fucking hell, he’s telling each player what to do

    Let them get on with it FFS

    I’ve got a commentator with a fucking speech impediment!! FFS

  8. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    that goal was all hernandez, the pass by scholes, the run from park, the decision from the ref, the goal, all proof that hernandez is better than welbeck

    • DeadRevel says

      … that was sarcasm right?

      Because Hernandez has done nothing in this game. his half sums him up… great finisher, average all round play.

      Berba has been good though.

  9. says

    At work so not watching. People just keep the updates coming.

    Oh, ignore Knobby. He is just being silly as usual.

    Knobby, behave yourself please!!

  10. han says

    Commenter said:
    … that was sarcasm right?

    Because Hernandez has done nothing in this game. his half sums him up… great finisher, average all round play.

    Berba has been good though.

    now you really have set unc’s arse on fire with that comment on berbs

  11. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    I will soon be patronised and called a welbeck fanboy extraordinnaire for defending welbeck by individuals who defend hernandez no less vehemently yet with increasingly less credibility judging by what we’re seeing this season

  12. han says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    I will soon be patronised and called a welbeck fanboy extraordinnaire for defending welbeck by individuals who defend hernandez no less vehemently yet with increasingly less credibility judging by what we’re seeing this season

    zzzzzzzz
    zzzzz
    zzzzzzz
    zzzzz

  13. bman says

    Uh oh, Stoke have suddenly had the bright idea of testing our shite defence, this could turn things around for them…

  14. Sidsidney says

    bman said:
    Uh oh, Stoke have suddenly had the bright idea of testing our shite defence, this could turn things around for them…

    Much easier to be adventurous when the game is already lost

  15. han says

    stoke have played 100 games already this season since they started in may
    should really be ramming the goals in against them

  16. Sidsidney says

    Pog looks less Crouch like then the last time I saw him
    He looks quite agile, quick off the mark and a decent turn for a lanky streak o’ nowt

  17. han says

    quality play by valencia
    getting better by the game
    shame we couldn’t improve the goal difference against shit stoke
    but never looked to get out of 2nd gear

  18. DeadRevel says

    Pogba’s looked very good.. impressive performance from the team. Should have been more. But can’t complain, Stoke never got a look in.

    EX REDS DO IT AGAIN! Fergie masterplan…. you know it. Only thing better than having United in the league is having two of them. :)

  19. sheesh says

    I can’t believe I sat in the freezing cold just to watch us score 2 penalties. Shite game. We didn’t play particularly brilliantly, Stoke turned up to spread their cheeks and allowed us to slip a length in.

    FFS. At least we won.

  20. Sidsidney says

    sheesh said:
    I can’t believe I sat in the freezing cold just to watch us score 2 penalties. Shite game. We didn’t play particularly brilliantly, Stoke turned up to spread their cheeks and allowed us to slip a length in.

    FFS. At least we won.

    Talk about ungrateful

    Give me your ticket

  21. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    Talk about ungrateful
    Give me your ticket

    No, ungrateful is having a ticket and choosing not to go. There were a few empty seats near where I was sat.
    I had a spare for tonight as well tbf.

  22. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    sheesh said:
    No, ungrateful is having a ticket and choosing not to go. There were a few empty seats near where I was sat..

    Doesn’t that tell you something?

  23. Sidsidney says

    sheesh said:
    No, ungrateful is having a ticket and choosing not to go. There were a few empty seats near where I was sat.

    I had a spare for tonight as well tbf.

    Dammit, why didn’t you tell me?! We could have sat and talked about the Tory’s during the boring bits of the match

  24. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    Job done

    I like Pogba

    Amos did well n all

    Pogba looked silky. Keeper doesn’t convince me at all. He had little to do but still fumbled a simple stop in the second half. I remember him not playing well against wolves in a carling cup game. Can’t remember when it was.

    I would worry if amos gets the nod against rent boys.

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