Manchester United Vs Stoke City – Preview and Team News on Premier League D-day

By on May 9, 2010

Sir Alex Ferguson

By Dan Salisbury-Jones.

Much like the Labour party this weekend, United’s chances of continuing to rule the roost in England lie in someone else’s hands.  But even if Wigan do the unthinkable at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have to complete their own part of the bargain by grabbing all three points against Stoke at Old Trafford.

The Potters come to Manchester sitting proudly just inside the top 10 and rest assured Tony Pulis will want his team to give their all in order to hold on to that status. They are currently above Blackburn Rovers on goal difference and Europa League Finalist’s Fulham by a single point, both those sides are also away to top half clubs, so a point could be invaluable to the visitors today. Financially it is especially important as results could dictate that Stoke drop 3 places on the last day, losing out on over £2.4 million worth of prize money.

VOdds

The first time the clubs met was all the way back in 1893, when Stoke beat Newton Heath 7-1 at the Victoria Ground. Much has changed since then of course, although the Potters did remain a force until the 1980’s, they dropped from the top flight in 1985 and in comparison to United’s rise to global phenomenon, relative obscurity.

Tony Pulis weaved his magic wand in 2008 though and managed the Staffordshire side back into the top division, the Premier League. His team have ruffled some feathers amongst England’s elite since their euphoric promotion, indeed this season they beat Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and knocked both Manchester City and Arsenal out of the FA Cup.

Since that promotion though, United have a 100% record against Stoke, not even conceding a goal in the 3 games. This fixture last season saw Sir Alex’s side romp to a 5-0 victory, most memorable for Ronaldo’s 100th United goal and Danny Welbeck marking his league debut with a stunning strike.

Today’s Premier League program is the reverse of the last weekend of September, when goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O’Shea saw United win at the Britannia Stadium and go top of the league, how? Because Wigan Athletic beat Chelsea.

The visitor’s form of late has been a mixed bag befitting their mid table position.  Wins against Hull and West Ham the only joys to be taken from March and April, the later month saw them knocked for 7 at Stamford Bridge. Most recently they beat Roy Hodgeson’s Fulham 1-0 on Wednesday night, a result that followed an impressive point gained against Everton.

United have no fresh injury concerns for their part of the final day drama, the only doubts seem to be with Rio Ferdinand (groin) and Gary Neville (calf), seemingly Sir Alex will not risk either with capable deputies in Jonny Evans and Rafael. The Reds are still without long term absentees Michael Owen, Anderson and Danny Welbeck.

PFA Player of the Season, Wayne Rooney should start alongside Dimitar Berbatov up front as the reds go for the jugular, playing 4-4-2 as against Sunderland.

Tony Pulis has stated he will name an unchanged side to the one that beat Fulham at Craven Cottage. He told Stoke City’s official website:-

’The only change may be Abdoulaye Faye coming back in on the bench after overcoming his recent injury.’

Tony Pulis, Stoke City Manager

We can assume from the Stoke manager’s comments then that Asmir Begovic will start in goal, with Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, and ex red’s Ryan Shawcross and Danny Higginbothom at the back.

Rory Delap and his infamous throw will be involved on the right flank, Matthew Etherington on the opposite side. Glenn Whelan may get some stick from the Stretford End due to his upbringing at Manchester City, Dean Whitehead will play alongside him in midfield.

Mamady Sidibe and top scorer Ricardo Fuller form a physical strike partnership.

The Stoke City end of season awards ceremony offers United a clear indication of who to look out for this afternoon. Matthew Etherington picked up a hat-trick of player of the season awards, expressing his success this campaign, he was also the goal-scorer in the win in West London on Wednesday night.

United’s backline will have to stay strong in a tough physical battle, as stated earlier though Stoke are yet to break through the Red’s defence in the Premier League.

The Potters will likely concede a lot of possession and look to make the most of quick breaks utilising Etherington’s pace and with direct balls up to target man Sidibe. United fans should prepare themselves for at least some frustration in breaking down the Stoke unit, unless of course the ghosts of their performance at Stamford Bridge return, this time to United’s benefit.

Only once in Premier League history has the title race gone to the final day and United relied on their title rivals losing. That was in 1995 when Blackburn Rovers indeed did lose at Anfield giving United a chance, but the Reds were held by West Ham giving Kenny Dalgleish and his side the crown.

Despite being just 1 point behind, United have to win to have any chance of still being champions come 6pm this evening. This is because of Chelsea’s superior goal difference, thanks in no small part to 3 times scoring 7 goals, including once against today‘s visitors to Old Trafford.

The maths then are simple, United win and Chelsea don’t, it’s a 4th straight crown and the 19th overall, 1 more than Liverpool.

For those attending Old Trafford today, you would be advised to take along a radio. For those watching on TV keep your fingers warm for the channel hopping between the 2 games and for those watching in the pub, get your drinking arm ready to either drown your sorrows or toast Sir Alex’s most historic of titles.

Here’s to D-day…

So what do YOU think will happen this afternoon? Where are you watching the game? Who would you pick to play? Get involved because we love to hear your views at football-talk in the comments box below…

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