Moyes seeks another quiet 1-0 win; Hughes seeks goalscorer.
It may not have felt like it on Tuesday, but Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography may have given Manchester United
a sly boost by resurrecting his beloved siege mentality. The only current player to come under quoteworthy criticism, Wayne Rooney, has merely reaffirmed his allegiance to David Moyes – a manager many doomsayers predicted he wouldn't work well with – and once more the Old Trafford gates clang shut to outsiders.
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 1-0 Sociedad (CL)
- Man Utd 1–1 So'ton (Prem)
- S'land 1–2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Shakhtar 1-1 Man Utd (CL)
- Man Utd 1–2 WBA (Prem)
- Stoke 0–0 WBA (Prem)
- Fulham 1-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 0–1 Norwich (Prem)
- Tranmere 0–2 Stoke (LC)
- Arsenal 3–1 Stoke (Prem)
Rooney went on to inspire a narrow but important defeat of Real Sociedad, and few would doubt he could do the same against struggling Stoke; with Norwich (in the League Cup), Fulham and Sociedad up next, United could build a fair head of steam before meeting Arsenal. Crisis? What crisis?
Three little points but eight huge places below Moyes, Mark Hughes has a similar job on: changing the attitudes of a club dominated by its previous manager. At least it's a change that most fans and players wanted, but Stoke
wouldn't have chosen to be 16th, just a point above the relegation zone.
Moreover, if fellow strugglers Crystal Palace appoint Tony Pulis, Hughes's job could get tougher in the table as well as in hearts and minds. A first win at Old Trafford since 1976 would help - it would take Stoke level with United in the table, for a start - but the Potters have only scored one goal in their six league games since August. Can Hughes, the former goalscoring darling of Old Trafford, find a hero?
Moyes's changes against Sociedad would have been much bigger news but for Fergie's book – and of course that win: losing managers tinker, victors rotate. As it is, Moyes can call on the rested Nani, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie, providing the latter's toes feel better (he's scored eight in seven against Stoke).
Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley face fitness tests, while even Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand might feature.
Stoke, for their part, hope Geoff Cameron can get over his gammy leg. Otherwise, they're fighting fit.
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini (Man Utd)
Dropped, rested, rotated: whatever the verb, Moyes' big summer signing was sidelined against Real Sociedad in favour of 39-year-old Ryan Giggs. He'll have a point to prove against Stoke, who combine the defensive muscularity Fellaini enjoys facing with the weak attacking which might allow him to drive forward. And despite expressing a preference for playing in defensive midfield, he still needs to get around the pitch.
Although three of Fellaini's four league appearances for United have been at home, he has yet to impress himself in the final third: against Southampton, he only received two passes there - and got a shot away from one of them. Even compared to fellow "sitter" Michael Carrick, Fellaini has been remarkably static: of his 47 completed passes against the Saints, 34 (72%) were in the middle third, compared to 20 of Carrick's 47 (42%). Moyes must demand the Belgian gets out more.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man Utd 2–0 Stoke (Prem, Apr 13)
- Stoke 2–4 Man Utd (Prem, Oct 12)
- Man Utd 2-0 Stoke (Prem, Jan 12)
- Stoke 1-1 Man Utd (Prem, Sep 11)
- Man Utd 2-1 Stoke (Prem, Jan 11)
It seems a long time since Mark Hughes was the latest Next United Manager – and indeed it is. The pair clashed over Manchester City's 2009 pursuit of Joleon Lescott, but things have settled somewhat since, generally in Moyes's favour: Hughes has won just two of the 14 Premier League games between the gaffers, and only once since March 2005, when Jonathan Stead scored Blackburn's winner past Nigel Martyn. Likesay, it seems a long time ago.
Facts and figures
- Man United have won all five of their previous Premier League home games against Stoke City.
- Stoke have lost more Premier League games against Man United than versus any other side (9).
- Manchester United's 11-point tally is their worst return from a top-flight season since 1989/90 (8 points).
- Stoke have failed to score in three successive Premier League games; they have never failed to score in four in a row.
- Robin van Persie has scored eight goals in seven Premier League games against Stoke - only Blackburn (11) have conceded more to him.
- Mark Hughes' next victory will be his 100th as a manager in the Premier League.
- Manchester United have not won either of their last two league games at Old Trafford - the last time that they failed to win three in a row there within a single season was back in October 2005.
- Stoke have only collected fewer points from their opening eight games to a Premier League season on one previous occasion - their first PL campaign in 2008/09 (7).
- The Potters have the worst shots-to-goals ratio in the Premier League this season (5.1%).
- 24 different players have started a Premier League game for Manchester United this season – more than any other side. They only started 24 different players in the whole of 2012/13.