Stoke City travel to Old Trafford looking for their first victory at the home of Manchester United since 1972, but will face a monumental task. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have started the season brightly and will be looking to keep their form going with a victory over the Potters.
United had an injury crisis at the start of the season, but that is beginning to level out with Chris Smalling and Ashley Young looking to return to the squad for the game against Stoke. However, Ferguson is still without Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic for another month. Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney started for England in the 1-1 draw in Poland on Wednesday, but could still start for United upon their return on Saturday afternoon.
Stoke have only lost once so far this season, a 1-0 late defeat against Chelsea, and the Potters have picked up valuable points away at Liverpool and at home to Arsenal and Manchester City. The game at Old Trafford will provide a difficult fixture for Tony Pulis, whose side have not won their last 12 meetings at United’s home in all competitions, drawing only once. However, Pulis has a full squad to choose from ahead of one of the toughest fixtures on the Potters’ calendar.
Michael Owen moved from United to the Potteries on a free transfer this summer and the 31 year old could be in contention for a start against his former club. Owen has been struggling with a slight injury, but has recovered and Pulis has the decision to go with Owen or Jonathan Walters alongside star striker Peter Crouch. Glenn Whelan is a doubt with a hamstring problem and he will face a late fitness test to see whether he can play against United.
With three tough fixtures ahead for Ferguson’s side, including a Capital One Cup tie with Chelsea sandwiched between an away fixture at Stamford Bridge and a home game with Arsenal, the game against Stoke should be a comfortable three points. However, Stoke will take heart from their point at Anfield and Pulis’ side will believe they are good enough to grab something from Old Trafford, even if it sounds so unlikely.