After an international break and the end of the transfer window, domestic football is back and for United, and there’s no more typically Premier League venue than the home of Stoke City. United have made a ‘perfect’ start to the campaign, being the only team to have won all 3 opening games. With zero goals conceded and ten scored, the Reds have confidence. A truly tough test lies ahead of them if they want to keep those kinds of stats going, as a trip to the previously eluded to Bet365 Stadium is on the horizon in the first of 7 matches this September.
Former United striker Mark Hughes is beginning his 5th season at the helm of Stoke and consistently kept them above any trouble in all that time. This summer, Stoke lost an influential player in their side in Marko Arnautović but as the transfer drew to a close, Hughes’ acquisitions looked solid. With former another United man Darren Fletcher making the move from West Brom after never missing a Premier League game in the 2 and a half years he spent there, Kurt Zouma coming in on loan from Chelsea, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting arriving on a free from Schalke and also, PSG winger Jesé Rodríguez on loan (who has already made impact), Stoke seemed to have had a successful transfer window. Bruno Martins-Indi also signed on a permanent basis & England ‘keeper Jack Butland has also returned fully from injury this season and is making a fine impression. Stoke have had a totally mixed bag of results so far, with a loss, a win, and a draw being their opening 3 outcomes. Sitting back and aiming to hit teams on the counter via a newly implemented 3-4-3 system. Last season, both fixtures between the 2 sides were 1-1 draws. At Old Trafford it was the first of many quite unbelievable draws and at the Bet365 Stadium, Wayne Rooney broke United’s all-time leading goalscoring record with a last-minute free-kick to equalise but that result did end a long-standing winning run for United at the time. Therefore, United are winless in their last 4 trips to Stoke which does not bode well.
For José Mourinho’s side, it’s all mostly unchanged. The international break saw no new injuries for any players in the squad and saw positive results for United men. None more so than Marcus Rashford. With 2 goals to his name over the break and an assist, the man who was the first to lose his place in an extremely consistent United starting XI so far has shown his qualities after he replaced the man who replaced him in the lineup before the break, Anthony Martial. The usual physicality that by now United are squad uses to in a match away to Stoke will possibly force Mourinho to alter his side.
It’s safe to say it could be time for a switch in lineup but the likes of Eric Bailly, David De Gea, Phil Jones, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matić, Paul Pogba, and Antonio Valencia should all keep their places. Ashley Young and Luke Shaw still remain doubtful to make the first-team squad but could feature for the reserves in midweek whereas Marcos Rojo and the returning Zlatan Ibrahimović are still set to face numerous weeks on the sidelines. Neil Swarbrick will referee the match and last was the man in the middle in a United match for the final Old Trafford draw of the season at home to Everton, the same fixture that dawns next in the Premier League after the return of the Champions League to Old Trafford.
It’s sure to be difficult test for United as the busy month commences and cup competitions emerge. Mark Hughes always likes to give United a setback despite his previous allegiances and his Stoke side will be eager to kick-on. The Premier League can now get back up and running after an early break but United will be quite happy to pick up where they left off.