Manchester United’s win against Derby County, although impressive, should not take the spotlight away from Van Gaal’s seemingly hopeless situation, and the amount of pressure on him. One win cannot take his past atrocities and the fact that he turned a team built on counter-attacking into a team that only plays defensive, “boring” football. However, at this point, it is crucial that United build on the result against Stoke.
Stoke’s defeat to Crystal Palace would definitely make them want to redeem themselves. Stoke enjoyed a brief spell of pressure midway through the second period but were unable to find a way through the Palace defence, leaving them to focus on their Premier League campaign. Joselu was Stoke’s most dangerous attacking threat in the first half and volleyed narrowly over the crossbar in the 25th minute before heading a Xherdan Shaqiri cross just wide moments later.
Guillermo Varela enhanced his reputation with a superb display in Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Derby on Friday. The youngster was included in the lineup in the absence of the injured Matteo Darmian and he worked tirelessly up and down the right flank.
Elsewhere, Michael Carrick will be hoping he’s fit enough to start in midfield having completed a cameo from the bench against Derby. Marouane Fellaini has been playing in central midfield as of late but the Belgian’s impact has been minimal. If Carrick is fit, then it should be him starting, and not Fellaini.
Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross was expected to be out for up to a month with the back injury that forced him off in Saturday’s defeat at Leicester. However, recent news suggest that he might just play in the game against the Red Devils, and is positive to return. Charlie Adams’ injury, on the other hand, will probably keep him out for 5-6 weeks. The Scotland international was injured in the Potters’ Capital One Cup semi-finalsecond leg at Liverpool on Tuesday and now faces a long spell on the sidelines.
• Stoke City have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last 10 Premier League games but have conceded exactly two goals in the other three games in this period.
• Manchester United have failed to win any of their last six games in all competitions (L3 D3) – the last time that they went on a run this long within a single season was in their treble-winning campaign of 1998-99 (Dec 1998).
• The Red Devils have averaged just 1.29 goals per game in the league this season, their lowest average since 1989-90 (1.21).
• Stoke City have won just one of their 14 Premier League matches against Manchester United (W1 D2 L11) but have lost just one of the last four at home (W1 D2 L1).
• The Potters have never kept a clean sheet against Man Utd in the Premier League.
• As a manager, Mark Hughes was unbeaten in his first three Premier League games against Man Utd (W2 D1) but has won just one of his 14 meetings with them since (W1 D3 L10).
League Head To Head
26/12/2015 Premier League 2015/2016 Stoke City 2 – 0 Manchester United
01/01/2015 Premier League 2014/2015 Stoke City 1 – 1 Manchester United
02/12/2014 Premier League 2014/2015 Manchester United 2 – 1 Stoke City
01/02/2014 Premier League 2013/2014 Stoke City 2 – 1 Manchester United
18/12/2013 League Cup 2013/2014 Stoke City 0 – 2 Manchester United
26/10/2013 Premier League 2013/2014 Manchester United 3 – 2 Stoke City
Manchester United – Anthony Martial
Martial was a constant threat at Pride Park and laid on the goals for Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata – earning praise from Van Gaal, who called his performance “fabulous”. Carrick and Fellaini agreed with their manager’s assessment of the 20-year-old.
Honestly, Martial has been displaying his talent since his debut. He is super young, and hence it is stupid to expect him to play well all the time. He has a lot of quality. He can dribble and is always dangerous, and the Red Devils will need Martial to maintain the same form even against Stoke City.
Stoke City – Philippe Wollscheid
Wollscheid put in a man-of-the-match performance despite missing his normal defensive partner — Ryan Shawcross — who often helps him through games, in the Capital One game against Liverpool. He effortlessly dealt with any threat on the floor and in the air and showed an impressive range of passing, boasting the best accuracy for long balls.
He should be looking to make goal-scoring extremely difficult for Manchester United.
The match is most likely to end up in a 1-0 victory for United. United should be looking to avenge the last defeat and also continue the form they displayed against Derby County.