Preview: Manchester United v Stoke City
Setting the scene… The Reds return to Premier League action on Monday night by welcoming a struggling Stoke City side, who parted company with former United striker Mark Hughes as their manager last week, to the Theatre of Dreams. United have made a positive start to 2018 after successive 2-0 wins over Everton in the league and Derby County in the Emirates FA Cup. Although Jose Mourinho’s men are yet to get the better of the Potters since the manager’s arrival in the summer of 2016, the Reds will be confident of making it a hat-trick of wins in 2018 and will undoubtedly be raring to go following a week of warm-weather training in Dubai after a 10-day break since booking an FA Cup fourth-round tie against League Two side Yeovil Town.
How can I follow the game? The game will kick-off at 20:00 GMT and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK. However, subscribers to MUTV on Sky or Virgin Media, the club’s MUTV app or online at MUTV.com will be able to watch the build-up from 18:00 GMT on the Match Day show. You will also be able to listen to radio commentary of the game before watching it in full at midnight on Tuesday. In addition, you can also keep up-to-date with all the action as it happens via ManUtd.com’s live match blog and by following our official Twitter account @ManUtd.
What’s the team news? The Reds could be boosted by the return of Antonio Valencia after the stand-in captain, who has not played since sustaining a hamstring problem against West Bromwich Albion on 17 December, trained all week in Dubai. Club captain Michael Carrick also trained during the camp following his recent absence with a heart problem and is seemingly edging closer to a return, while Chris Smalling and Marouane Fellaini could feature again after making their respective injury comebacks against Derby last time out. Ashley Young will complete a three-match ban and Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic remain sidelined. The boss said in his pre-match press conference on Friday that the Swedish striker could return to training at the end of January or the beginning of February.
Who will be in charge of Stoke? The Potters parted company with Mark Hughes after four-and-a-half years in charge after they were dumped out of the FA Cup following a 2-1 defeat against League Two Coventry City – managed by his former United team-mate Mark Robins – at the Ricoh Arena in his 200th match in charge of the club. Stoke have begun the search for a new boss and have been linked with a number of top names, including ex-Watford boss Quique Sanchez-Flores and Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. First-team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki has been placed in temporary charge on a day-to-day basis and, should a new manager not be appointed by Monday, he would take charge of the Potters at Old Trafford.
How have Stoke been doing? It’s been a tough time of late for the Staffordshire club, who have dropped into the relegation zone after a run of five defeats in the last seven league games before last weekend’s defeat at Coventry spelled the end of Hughes’s tenure. In their last away league game, at the end of December, they were thumped 5-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But the Potters have bolstered their defensive options this week with the signing of Austrian international right-back Moritz Bauer from Russian outfit Rubin Kazan on a four-and-a-half-year deal.
What’s our record like against them? Historically, we have a mixed overall record against the Potters, having won 43, drawn 36 and lost 28 of our 107 meetings in all competitions stretching back to 1893. The Reds have dominated this fixture since Stoke’s promotion a decade ago, with 12 wins from 19 Premier League games, but the last three meetings have finished in draws – including a 2-2 scoreline back in September which ended our 100 per cent start to the season.
One to watch: Stoke have only scored 23 goals in 22 league games this season and they have four players tied on four goals each. But, despite their dismal run, one man that has stood out is Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The Cameroon international forward, who signed from Schalke last summer, has impressed with four goals and four assists this term. He scored an important goal in the Potters’ last win – a 3-1 success over West Bromwich Albion on 23 December – and the Reds’ defence will be wary of his threat after his brace in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
Did you know? United will be playing on a Monday night for the first time since our FA Cup quarter-final defeat against Mourinho’s former club Chelsea last March. However, the Reds in fact boast the best Premier League record on this particular day of the week – winning 40 of our 59 previous Monday matches in the top-flight.
How will we get on? Get involved and predict the score of the game with the Manchester United Score Predictor and win amazing prizes throughout the season with Marathonbet.
Who’s the referee? Anthony Taylor will take charge of his third United game of the season after handling our 1-0 defeat at Chelsea in November and 2-1 win at West Brom last month, but it will be his first visit to Old Trafford since the Reds’ 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in our final home league game last season. He’ll be assisted by Adam Nunn and Constantine Hatzidakis, while the fourth official is Bobby Madley – who refereed last season’s corresponding fixture when United were held to a 1-1 draw.
Rivals Watch… The Premier League returns for the second round of games in 2018 after the Emirates FA Cup third-round weekend. Elsewhere, Tottenham host Everton in a Saturday evening kick-off at Wembley before leaders Manchester City visit Liverpool and Arsenal travel to Bournemouth on Sunday. Here’s the full fixture list…
Saturday 13 January (15:00 GMT unless stated)
Chelsea v Leicester City
Crystal Palace v Burnley
Huddersfield Town v West Ham United
Newcastle United v Swansea City
Watford v Southampton
West Bromwich Albion v Brighton
Tottenham Hotspur v Everton (17:30 GMT)
Sunday 14 January
Bournemouth v Arsenal (13:30 GMT)
Liverpool v Manchester City (16:00 GMT)
Monday 15 January
Manchester United v Stoke City (20:00 GMT)
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