League leaders Manchester United’s title credentials will be given their toughest test yet when the Red Devils travel to the bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City in their Premier League fixture on Saturday night.
Stoke, helped by the acquisition of Jese from Paris Saint-Germain, have shed their ‘lump-it’ style in favour of an aesthetically pleasing style with an influx of talents over the years.
The Red Devils, who have scored 10 goals in their last three games, seem unstoppable at the moment and while the Potters won’t make it easy, it is difficult to look past a United win.
After losing at Everton in their opener, Stoke bounced back with a superb win over Arsenal, with new boy Jese scoring the winner.
A tough draw at West Brom followed and one feels that this is the year the Potters will rise from mid-table mediocrity.
However, playing straight at United would be foolish and Mark Hughes, a Red Devils legend himself, will have to ensure his team set up well to frustrate the visitors and hit them on the counter.
Saido Berahino and Jese linked up superbly for the winner against Arsenal and Potters fans will want more of the same, for the speedy duo can certainly light up the Premier League if they set their mind to it.
Ryan Shawcross’ back injury, however, comes at the worst time possible and without the former United defender, the Potters may struggle to contain United’s searing attack.
Talking Corner: I think we will clearly give United the respect they deserve, but sometimes the best way to show that respect is to get about them early on and really ask questions of them-Stoke City manager Mark Hughes
Injury concerns: Ryan Shawcorss (back), Stephen Ireland (fractured leg), Ibrahim Afellay (knee), Kurt Zouma (ankle), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (hamstring), Darren Fletcher (knee), Mame Biram Diouf (knee) and Julien Ngoy (thigh).
Suspension Alert: None
So far so great. Three wins from three and as a bonus, David de Gea’s goal is yet to be breached.
Plus, apart from long-term absentees Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho has a full squad to choose from.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are vying for the left wing slot and such competition bodes well for United but it has been the form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan that has surprised most.
Nemanja Matic has been impressive as a defensive shield while Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have been among the goals but it is the Armenian, with five assists, who has emerged as the standout player so far.
Their defence has been quietly been going about their job, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones forming an unlikely but effective partnership in the centre and at the moment it is truly difficult to pin-point a significant weak-link.
Talking Corner: A lot of the goals we’ve scored have been late in the game, and they’ve come from sticking to what we believe in. We’ve got to go to Stoke with the right attitude and mentality to make sure we get the three points- Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford (MUTV)
Injury concerns: Marcos Rojo (knee) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee).
Suspension Alert: None