Manchester United vs Stoke City
Venue: Old Trafford
After an abysmal last few weeks, Manchester United have two wins in five days. The victory against Zorya wasn’t pretty but after the disasterous start against Feyenoord, as cliche as it sounds, the win was the most important thing on Thursday night.
Jose Mourinho still has a dilemma on his hands on whether to bring Wayne Rooney back into the fold. Of course, logic says keep with the winning side from Saturday against Leicester, but playing Stoke does offer a different challenge.
Will United be able to play the quick-paced football like last weekend against Stoke? Mark Hughes will know United will try to replicate their form of last week, so it’d be no surprise to see his side attempt to stifle the Red Devils in the opening parts of the game.
Rooney’s experience may be handy for a game like this, but there’s no doubt he won’t be able to stretch Stoke as much as United will need to.
If United can get a goal early, the floodgates could open as Stoke have already conceded four goals on three separate occasions.
Mourinho’s other selection problem will be whether Luke Shaw comes straight back into the side, because if he doesn’t, the composure and creativity of Daley Blind will most likely drop to the bench in favour of Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly.
Shaw’s been recovering for illness, so we’ll see whether he’s back, but also Henrikh Mkhitaryan could return from injury if he’s been able to get himself raring to go.
With Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford without forgetting Anthony Martial, Mkhitaryan will have a big challenge on his hands to force his way back into the team.
The Potters are 19th in the table, but Mourinho knows that his side need to treat Hughes’ side with great respect at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Mourinho said at his press conference: “It is another poisoned gift because Stoke is not what the table says.
“The manager is very good, the players are good, the team is good, so when I look to the table, that’s not Stoke’s position.”
Stoke posed United a lot of problems last season, with the movement and link play between Bojan, Arnautovic and Shaqiri and if the trio manage to click again, the United defence could have an eventful afternoon.
Bailly will have to be extra careful and begin to start curving his all-out approach when he comes up against the dangerous three.
Shaw and Mkhitaryan could be back in the squad after recovering from illness and injury, with Phil Jones still the only long-term injury at United.
Stoke City forward Jonathan Walters could make a comeback from an ankle injury, but midfielder Joe Allen will be a doubt after he hasn’t trained since last weekend due to a tight hamstring.
Jack Butland is still out for the Potters.
Man Utd: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Schneiderlin, Pogba; Mata, Ibrahimovic, Rashford
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