The situation does not seem to be improving at Old Trafford. The continued mediocre performance on the ground has fuelled speculation that Louis Van Gaal is on his way out of the club. They make the gruelling trip to Brittania stadium this weekend in the Boxing day fixture. Stoke City, who have garnered 10 points in the last games will be hoping to take advantage of United’s wretched form and make positive additions to their points tally.
Stoke city will be without the services of Peter Crouch, Shay Given, Stephen Ireland, Mark Muniesa and Peter Odemwingie who are nursing injuries while Cameron remains doubtful for the game. We expect manager Hughes to continue with the attacking unit of Shaqiri, Affelay, Arnautovic and Bojan, who seem to be developing with more playing time together.
United have a few injury concerns going into the game with Blackett, Darmian, Lingard, Rojo Shaw and Valencia injured meaning Van Gaal will have to play Ashley Young in his less preferred Right-back role. The situation has been worsened by the suspension handed to Schweinsteiger for a club that is struggling to field a balanced 11. We believe that Rooney will be preferred in the number 9 role ahead of a more productive Martial for it is merely what Van Gaal desires.
This will be the 89th meeting between these two sides in all competitions, with United running out victors on 39 occasions compared to Stoke’s 23 victories.
Anthony Martial leads the goal scoring charts for Manchester United with 5 goals while Arnautovic has notched 5 goals for Stoke.
Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan, Van Ginkel, Shaqiri and Afellay, Arnautovic, Bojan
De Gea, Young, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Fellaini, Carrick, Martial, Depay, Mata and Rooney
Swiss midfielder Shaqiri is definitely the corner stone of this new look Stoke City attacking unit that rely more on guile and skill rather than brute and power. The swift midfielder who has tasted immense success in a rather short career (remember he is just 24) made heads turn when he joined Stoke by rejecting some top clubs across Europe. However, he currently serves the perfect example of how extended playing time can revive careers that seem on a down side.
Shaqiri currently leads the creativity charts at Stoke having created 28 chances. He has shown an ability to create space for himself in the opposition half and his passing range and accuracy ensure he remains a threat.
It pains us to see Martial being stuck in the wings despite doing the right things when played up top and far out performing the current number 9 and club captain Wayne Rooney. The French striker currently leads the Manchester United goal scoring charts in the league with 4 goals. While that number reminds us of mediocrity of this United side, it is an indication of Martial abilities in front of the goal despite being shifted around.
While Memphis Depay was touted for immediate success while Martial was thought of an expensive buy, things seem to have turned the tide with Martial enjoying some success compared to the Dutch prodigy. His pace, movement and strength are bound to trouble the Stoke back line and will be the crucial difference between the sides when the final whistle blows.
Manchester United seem to be falling deeper into crisis with every passing game. We do not expect the situation to improve away from home to Stoke City. We predict that Stoke will win the game 2-0.