It's time to look ahead to tomorrows game at the rugged and tough Stoke City. After a pair of poor defeats despite the decent opposition, Manchester United need to settle the ship some. In previous years a trip to Stoke City would not be ideal when looking for a comfortable win, and while I would bet my bottom dollar on this being similarly tough, the Potter's from since the turn of the year has been woeful.
In the reverse fixture, Wayne Rooney helped the Potters into a lead with an own goal. However he scored a brace in the right end, with further goals from Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck. Michael Kightly also got himself on the score sheet in what turned out to be a 4-2 win.
Stoke City: The last six for Stoke have been awful. The only point they have picked up was a 0-0 draw against West Brom. They lost to a single goal by Fulham away and West Ham at home, a 2-1 loss to Newcastle at St James Park, the 0-0 draw with West Brom at home and another single goal defeat away to Everton. Their most recent game was a 3-1 loss at home to Villa, memorable because of a fantastic goal scored by Villa's Lowton.
What once was a formidable fortress, now looks to be a burnt out shack. In the last six at Britania they have picked up only 5 points from a possible 18. You have the three results mentioned previously (Losses to Villa and West Ham, and the draw with WBA). The other three are a rare win, albeit against bottom feeders Reading, a draw against Wigan and a 4-0 loss to Chelsea. Certainly not pretty reading for Stoke fans.
Manchester United: In the last six we have won two, drawn once and three losses. However this is in all competitions. In league play we are outstanding, with the only blemish being Monday nights result.
Our away form this year has been pleasantly brilliant to be honest. In the last six we have drawn two (Swansea away: 1-1, Spurs away, 1-1) with four victories. These came by way of four goals against Wigan, one goal against Fulham, two goals at QPR and one against Sunderland. Perhaps most impressive is that our fantastic defense did not concede a single goal in any of these wins. Before Monday night, the last time we had conceded a goal in the league was when Southampton took an early lead at Old Trafford on 30th Jan.
Stoke: Mathew Etherington and Marc Wilson were both subbed last week due to injury. Glen Whelan trained this week and is expected to be available for selection.
Manchester United: For an in depth look, click here. The main news is that Ashley Young is out for a possible two weeks after he came off in the dying embers of the derby. He has an ankle knock. Brighter news is that Jonny Evans is back, however there are still doubts on Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling. Paul Scholes trained this week, but he is a long shot to make the team sheet.
My knowledge on Stoke is not great. I don't know their players and I admit I have not watched their recent games. If you are interested, I did a check on google, and the blog The Hard Tackle (No pun intended, I hope) seems to have some decent ideas. Here are a few of my own ideas.
Obviously, Begovic is a certain starter in goal. The inclusion of Walters, projected to start on the right, gives them added versatility. He can play up top a long with the striker (Kenwyne Jones), so if they need a goal, or want to attack from the start, he could be pushed forward. Shotton at right back will fling the ball in from the touchline with any throw with 1000 yards of the United goal. Finally, when Stoke have the ball in advanced areas in wide positions, they will certainly pump the ball into the box. If this happens, look for Jones peel off to use his hight against the full backs for United, who he will have a significant stature advantage over.
Manchester United: Predicting Fergie's line up is like trying to catch water, or get a date with Beyonce (Please ring me). So instead, I will pick a team that I would like to see. Remember, we travel to the East End of London for West Ham on Wednesday. If I feel I need to justify I pick, I will write a few words as to why.
David de Gea - If you think otherwise, your crackers!
Rafael - I thought he was very solid against City. His defending in the big games has been solid too. Just a very solid season from a players whose defending was erratic at times in previous season. A solid pick if I may say so...
Jonny Evans - I'm working on the assumption Nemanja Vidic won't play, and even if he is fit, I would like him against Big Sam's West Ham. I think Evans is a terrific defender. I don't envision problems with him slotting back into the team.
Phil Jones - I want to keep Rio fresh for West Ham. I also think Jones deserves to be rewarded for his performance against City. While Evans is not the most experienced of players to team with perhaps our least experienced CB, Stoke can hardly buy a goal. I understand there is a slight risk in deploying this CB pairing, but I think these two are up to the challenge.
Patrice Evra - Alex Buttner is possible, but I doubt it.
Antonio Valencia (RW)/Danny Welbeck (LW)- I'm putting these two together because the reasons are similar. Everyone knows are wingers have been horrific this season. And I whittled these down due to process of elimination. I thought of Nani, and my mind jumped straight to the performance against Chelsea. Were also playing Stoke, who wouldn't mind kicking lumps out of him. I personally don't think he would fancy it. Young is injured. Giggs went the full 90 in CM on Monday, so he is probably bed ridden. I also think the work rate of the two selected will help the full backs guard against the cross happy opposition. I also think Danny Welbeck will link up well with our front pairing.
Micheal Carrick - See David de Gea's "description"
Tom Cleverley - I want a game where we are in complete control for as much as possible. With Jones playing, Giggs not considered, that leaves Clev or Anderson. With Anderson's tendency to go 90 minutes at the dinner table instead of the football field, I went with Cleverley. I think his work rate both off the ball when we our chasing the ball and when we are in possession will help us work our way up the pitch. With Welbeck looking to move inside he can find clever passes to get him running. This can also be true of my "number 10", who also likes to receive the ball on the move.
Shinji Kagawa - He had his best game when he scored a hat trick against Norwich playing the number ten role. He hasn't played an awful lot recently so he should be fresh. I think he would link up well with Welbeck and maybe both of them could try and exploit some space down the left, as Shotton likes to get forward from RB. Kagawa has so much quality and I think he could provide a winning contribution.
Wayne Rooney - Yes, I have dropped RVP. He can come on and change the game if we need be. I went with Rooney, largely because I went with Kagawa as the number 10. They displayed a wonderful understanding when Kagawa nabbed his hat trick, with Rooney laying on two of the goals with delightful passes. It was possibly Rooney's best performance of the season and I want to give them another chance to thrive. I could have went with Chicarito, but I wanted someone a little more rounded in the "9" role, to best utilize Kagawa's abilities.
Make sure you join us tomorrow for coverage in our live thread.
KO 14:05 GMT
TV: Sky Sports (UK)
Fox Soccer (US)