Wayne Rooney will miss Stoke City’s visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday with an ankle injury sustained in Manchester United’s fortunate victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. However, the 25-year-old striker, who scored just his third goal of the season against the Baggies, could return for next weekend’s FA Cup Third Round tie with Liverpool.
Rooney twisted his left ankle at the Hawthornes following Chris Brunt’s challenge, although the United star returned for the final few minutes of the game. However, with the player having suffered two serious ankle injures in the past nine months, it seems unlikely Sir Alex Ferguson will take any risks at Old Trafford.
Ferguson may also be without Patrice Evra, who suffered a nasty black-eye at the hands of team-mate Nemanja Vidic this week, while Nani may again miss out with an ongoing hip problem. United will also be without long-term absentees Antonio Valencia, Owen Hargreaves, Paul Scholes, and John O’Shea, while Park Ji-Sung is at the Asia Cup.
Not that United’s manager will be keen to risk too many of his stars against the robust Potters, who have gain a reputation for physicality and ugly football since returning to the Premier League.
“We know what to expect from Stoke,” Fletcher told MUFC.com.
“‘You know you’re in for a battle when you play Stoke and you have to win that battle and earn the right to play. They always have a go. They look at home in the Premier League now and they know what it’s all about.
“They can go direct if they want to but they also have some good footballers up front. You know Stoke will be physical at times because they lump free-kicks and long throw-ins into the box but we can’t neglect the other ways they can cause problems.
“Our defensive performances have been very good and we’ll do our homework and prepare for Stoke’s threat.”
Match-going United supporters will have noted the similarity between Pullis’ side and the club’s supporters, who have gained a deserved reputation for being among the most unpleasant in the Premier League. It is to the eternal mystery of United supporters that Stoke fans genuinely believe the two clubs to be rivals. They’re not. After all, Stoke hasn’t emerged victorious at Old Trafford in 34 years nor, indeed, beaten United in the league at any venue since 1984.
That Stoke supporters spent 90 minutes at Old Trafford in May jubilantly cheering each Chelsea goal in a match taking place 200 miles south is to the club’s eternal shame.
Meanwhile, Stoke defender Robert Huth will play after sitting out the Potters victory over Everton at the weekend through suspension. Manager Tony Pullis may opt to leave out both Jon Walters and Ricardo Fuller, with Kenwyne Jones ploughing a lone furrow.
One striker who may not feature in United’s matchday squad is Federico Macheda, with Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone claiming a loan deal has been struck for the teenager to spend the next five months in Genoa.
“Macheda has easily filled the void left by Cassano, he will definitely do well,” Garrone told reporters today.
“In these five months we will try to treat him well. With him here, the enthusiasm has increased tenfold.”
Not that United should need the former Lazio striker against Stoke having won 10 of the last 13 league meetings without the Potters scoring. Stoke managed a goal at the Britannia earlier this season, only for United’s Mexican striker Javier Hernández to win the game for the visitors.
Stoke – 451 – Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Higginbotham; Pennnant, Whitehead, Faye, Delap, Etherington; Jones. Subs from: Fuller, Walters, Sorensen, Gudjohnsen, Wilson, Whelan, Collins, Wilson, Tuncay, Diao.
United – 442 – van der Sar; Rafael da Silva, Vidic, Ferdinand, Fabio da Silva; Fletcher, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs; Berbatov, Hernández. Subs from: Kuzszazk, Amos, Evans, O’Shea, Brown, Anderson, Bébé, Gibson, Macheda, Owen, Obertan, Smalling.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: Scott Ledger & Glenn Turner
Fourth official: Neil Swarbrick
United – LDWWDW
Stoke – DDLWLW