Stoke Preview: Now The Season Begins

Now that Manchester United has resolved their off-the-field issues, they can now get on with their season, and it starts with a very tough trip to the Britannia Stadium to take on Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League.

United have struggled in the Premier League up to this point, and sit in fourth place because of their inability to kill of their opponents.

However, that cloud of uncertainty has been lifted, and the performances should follow suit, but that will not be easy, because they are facing a very disciplined, stubborn Stoke team.

United beat Stoke 2-0 at the Britannia last season, but that was due to the some late game-changing heroics from Ryan Giggs, but the Welsh Winger will be missing for this match after re-aggravating his hamstring against the 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion.

Stoke suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss against Bolton Wanderers at The Reebok Stadium in their last match after Ivan Klasnic struck the winner injury-time for the home team.

The Potters, though, have had a really decent start to these season, and despite being in ninth place, they are only four points worse off than United, but with that said, Stoke is only four points off the relegation zone as well.

Their league position is very similar to where they have finished in their two previous seasons in the top flight of English football, because Stoke has finished in 12th and 11th place, respectively.

The Potters have secured three impressive wins this season including two impressive 2-1 come-from-behind victories over both Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

Stoke have struggled scoring goals this season, and why that is surprising, because Tony Pulis brought in two players to help bolster the attack with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Kenwyne Jones joining the club from AS Monaco and Sunderland, respectively.

Both of those forwards know exactly how it feels to score against United, so the central defense will need to be aware of both of these players if Pulis opts to player either of them.

Jones is their leading scorer with three goals to his name this season –

Pulis did not make major wholesale changes to his squad, but he did add some Premier League pedigree to his squad.

Former Liverpool player, Jermaine Pennant in from Real Zaragoza, and Salif Diao rejoined the club after leaving as a free agent at the beginning of the summer.

However, where he did his most business was with Portsmouth as there were no fewer than five players that transferred between two clubs – with Carl Dickinson, Dave Kitson, Liam Lawrence and Ibrahima Sonko going to the South Coast club, and Marc Wilson going to the Britannia.

Pulis did away with one of his players that was a constant thorn in his side last season by allowing James Beattie join Rangers.

By now, everyone and their brother has heard the news about Wayne Rooney signing a new five-year contract with the club, but he will still miss the game after picking up a new ankle injury in training.

With United defense rock solid in the 1-0 win over Bursaspor, it will be intersting to see if Ferguson recalls any of the players he rested – Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and John O’Shea.

That performance saw both full-backs, Rafael and Patrice Evra, put in fantastic performances both assisting with the attack and doing well to cut out any potent threats from the Turkish champions.

Manchester United will need to be at their best and eliminate all of the defensive errors that they have been making if they are to get maximum points from the always-hostile Britannia Stadium.

Out: A. Valencia (leg), R. Giggs (hamstring), J. Evans (hip), M. Owen (hamstring), W. Rooney (ankle); Doubtful: O. Hargreaves (knee)

E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; Nani, D. Fletcher, P. Scholes, G. Obertan; D. Berbatov, J. Hernandez

Stoke City 0, Manchester United 2

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