I really don’t like Stoke fans. They will put that down to successfully achieving their status as wind up merchants but it’s so far removed from that. Fans come to Old Trafford every week thinking they’re clever singing “we support our local team”, as if they were the ones that made it up, as if we’ve never heard it before, and as if it bothers in the slightest, whether a red from Manchester, the North West, down south, Ireland or anywhere else. “You support a load of shit” is the usual response, and in the case of Stoke, it’s true. Attempting to be a wind up isn’t a problem, we get to hear those chants all the time. My problem with Stoke fans runs deeper.

Your primary job as a football supporter is to support your team. When you hear fans booing their players off the pitch or berating their own for mistakes, it really gets on my nerves. That’s not to say I disagree with fans ever having negative opinions about their own players and what you want to do at the final whistle is up to you, but when you’re in the ground and the chips are down, you need to be that clichéd 12th man.

Stoke get a good press for their support, for the volume of their support in particular, but this is something I just don’t get (particularly judging by their home support the past couple of times we’ve gone to their place. Library). Then when they come to Old Trafford, they’re always far more concerned with slagging off our players and fans than they are with supporting their own fellas on the pitch. When the players go off at half-time, the Stoke fans boo, for fear of missing out on the opportunity to boo United players. The score is irrelevant – winning, drawing or losing. Can you imagine? Not applauding your own players off but booing the opposition? They just seem to miss the point of football support, showing up in their fancy dress and being so obsessed with their opposition.

Last year, with their own team 4-0 down, the away fans cheered every goal scored by Chelsea against Wigan as they won the title. That means their fans were sat there, tuning in to their radios from the stands when their own team was on the pitch, to find out how Chelsea were getting on. Cheering the goals of any other team when it does absolutely nothing for your own team is one thing, but cheering Chelsea‘s goals? If it was some harmless enough team like Villa or Spurs or whatever winning the league, then fair enough, but who the fuck wants Chelsea to win the league? Stoke? Stoke fans cheering at Chelsea winning the league? The mind boggles. And how did that cheering make their players feel, 4-0 down at Old Trafford on the last game of the season, knowing their fans couldn’t give a shit less. Their own fans were too busy celebrating Chelsea’s goals to bother trying to encourage their own team to get anything out of the game.

The whole nature of Stoke’s support is just so small time and opposite to what I regard a proper fanbase. I honestly would prefer some prawn sandwich eating South stander who won’t sing the songs to a Stoke fan, totally consumed with bitterness and hatred.

It’s a shame then that as we go in to tonight’s game against Stoke, a game I obviously want to win, with some of our key players missing. Edwin Van der Sar, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are all expected to miss out, with Nani struggling to get back after missing out on our matches over the festive period with a hip problem.

This could mean starts for Chicharito and Chris Smalling, both of whom have played well enough in their fleeting appearances to deserve another chance. Gabriel Obertan, who got a lot of stick in his last game against West Brom, could also start again, depending on whether Nani is ready or not. The only way for Obertan to improve is if he’s given games though.

Darron Gibson, who’s been given a run out over the past few weeks, in another option we’re without after picking up a knock against West Brom, leaving Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Anderson as our central midfield options. You have to wonder whether Ferguson is going to want one or more of them rested for Liverpool at the weekend, keen to avoid a rival defeat like Leeds this time last year, and bring in Giggs from the start.

No other team from the top five plays tonight, meaning we have the opportunity to pull three points clear of City, having played a game less than them, five points clear of Arsenal on the same games, eight points clear of Spurs on the same games, and incredibly, nine points clear of Chelsea on the same games. This is a brilliant opportunity and after squandering so many points on the road this season, let’s at least stick with what we’ve been good at this season, and win at home.

Come on reds!