This Monday night (15 January) Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United will host a struggling and manager-less Stoke City side at Old Trafford with 3 league points on the line.
Football had taken a back seat at Man United with all the recent noise around the apparent pursuit of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean is a player whom Jose Mourinho described as “phenomenal” in his pre-match press conference. The Red Devils, fresh from their break in Dubai will be expected come out with a rejuvenated display on Monday and secure a win that will finally put some daylight between themselves and defending Champions Chelsea. Antonio Conte’s blues managed just a scoreless draw on Saturday night against visiting Leicester City.
With the Premier League title almost out of reach, United must ensure they lead the chasing pack; that is all they could do at this moment in time. Mourinho’s men sit second in the league with 47 points from 22 games.
Stoke rudderless and adrift
Stoke City parted ways with Mark Hughes after four-and-a-half years following the club’s dismal run to close out 2017. The club’s slide has them placed in one of the three relegation positions which made Hughes’ position untenable.
But Kevin Russell, Stoke’s Under-18s coach—who will be overseeing the senior team alongside Eddie Niedzwiecki until they bring in a suitable replacement—remains optimistic about his team’s chances of getting out of the quagmire at the bottom as soon as possible. Just 10 points separate the 10th and 20th placed teams in the Premier League. A fact Russell himself has noted:“It’s far from a crisis if you look at the table. We have some good home games coming up and this is a tough place to come. If we can get a couple of results soon we can shoot up the table.”
With no wins in the last four, Old Trafford on a Monday night certainly looks a daunting proposition to get something out of. Yet it is no doubt one that Stoke City will relish coming off the loss of their manager.
Manchester United will be without Ashley Young who is serving the last match of his suspension. Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick are also doubtful for this weekend as they continue to recover from injury.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to return to training in late January/early February. Eric Bailly remains sidelined but could return at a similar time.
Stoke City’s Erik Pieters (thigh) and Bruno Martins Indi (groin) are back in training, though caretaker first-team co-coach Kevin Russell does not know if the defenders will be fit for Monday.
- Manchester United have won 25 of a possible 27 points in Premier League home matches against Stoke City, with the only points dropped coming in this exact fixture last season (1-1).
- Stoke City are winless in their last 17 trips to Manchester United in all competitions (D2 L15), since a 1-0 win in April 1976.
- The Potters have never lost a Premier League away match on a Monday (W3 D5). Man Utd have lost only one of their 29 PL home matches on a Monday (W21 D7).
- Anthony Martial has been directly involved in three goals in his two home PL appearances against Stoke (2 goals, 1 assist) and scored in both matches.
Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United
After opening his campaign with Manchester United on a rampage—scoring 11 in his first 10 appearances—the Belgian has had it rough in front of goal since. He has now scored just 5 in the last 21. Yet Lukaku has continued to be involved in the build up; often being deployed furthest forward to lead the line and bring others into play.
The form of Lingard and Martial has eased the burden on Lukaku in a way Ibrahimovic never got to experience last season, and their link-up in play in the final third will be crucial to breaking down the visitors on Monday night.
Choupo-Moting – Stoke City
Choupo-Moting has been one of the better performers at Stoke off the left hand side. With 4 goals and 4 assists in 18 starts, he has been the most prolific this season for the Potters. In fact, 2 of those goals came against Manchester United in the reverse fixture when Stoke halted the winning run of United by holding them to an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Manchester United have not conceded in 323 minutes of competitive action in all competitions and Stoke will have to pull something really special out of the hat to beat David De Gea and co. Still, if anyone in their lineup could do, it would have to be Choupo-Moting.
Home side to cruise.
Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City