The Red Devils went into the international break with an impressive momentum after a three-nil thumping of Newcastle United and an equally impressive Champions League victory over CFR Cluj.
What follows is a preview of how the Red Devils could stack up for the all-important clash.
David De Gea had a torrid time against Newcastle United facing the high-balls and set-pieces and since Stoke City’s play heavily focuses on these two virtues, the Spaniard could find himself dropped on the bench in favour of Andres Lindegaard.
With Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic out injured and Chris Smalling just returning to full-fitness after a lengthy-layoff, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand are expected to start at the heart of the team’s defence.
Rafael Da Silva has virtually no competition for the right-back role and Patrice Evra should take up the left flank, although it is time that Dutchman Alexander Buttner is given some much-deserved playing time ahead of the struggling Frenchman.
Against Cluj and Newcastle, Alex Ferguson successfully executed the ‘diamond-midfield’ formation and the Scot is again expected deploy this makeshift tactic against the Thug City.
Michael Carrick is a shoo-in for the deep-lying midfield role, but Tom Cleverley could be rested, considering he participated in both of England’s games over the international break.
Hence, either of Anderson or Paul Scholes should see his name printed on the starting line-up. Personally, I’d like the Brazilian to play as when Scholes and Carrick play together, the Red Devils are often exploited in at the back due to the two midfielders’ lack of pace.
Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa should complete the diamond midfield with Kagawa primarily deployed in the shuttler’s role alongside Anderson and Rooney playing “in the hole”.
Some questions may as to arise with Kagawa playing in the shuttler role and not in the No 10 role as the Japan international is much more effective when played between the midfield and the attack.
Robin van Persie is a shoo-in over here. The Dutchman has been one of the best summer signings so far and will be instrumental in United’s game against the Potters.
His contributions in front of the goal will be vital for United’s to break Stoke’s robust defence and Ferguson will be hoping that the former Arsenal striker can continue with his phenomenal form.
Partnering the 29-year-old up-front will be either of Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck. The Mexican might get the nod ahead of his English counterpart for the following two reasons.
First, Welbeck might need some rest as he’s coming off from a taxing international duty with Roy Hodgson and Co.
Second, Hernandez’s pace and ability to easily get behind the defensive line could be very well utilized to exploit Stoke’s defensive duo of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. During his debut season, the youngster was a nightmare for the Stoke’s defenders, scoring a wonderful brace at the Britannia Stadium and could be a pivotal figure for the Red Devils this Saturday.
image: © James Boyes