Manchester United travel to Stoke on the back of a home victory against Cardiff, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer return to Old Trafford for the first time as manager. However, today’s trip to Stoke will pose a different challenge to that of the mid-week game. Historically, The Britannia Stadium is a difficult place to visit; usually sitting tight and often physical they have the knack of grinding out results.
I think with the capture of Mata, we have a real attacking threat with the likes of Rooney, RVP and Januzaj all going forward and ideally I think we could pose big trouble with a 4-2-3-1 formation but is Moyes willing to go for it?
Here’s my predicted XI
Manchester United have had a love/hate relationship with goalkeepers over the past couple of decades. We seem to get some right stinkers before we find that gem amongst the lot. Schmeichel and VDS have been the two of the greatest keepers of all time and I believe that DDG is slowly on his way to achieving the same cult status at the Theatre of Dreams. Given how young he is, he is sure to be our number one for many years to come and it can’t be long before he’s considered as Spain’s first choice keeper too. Expect to see him start against Stoke.
For me, the defence kind of picks itself right now. Rafael is our best right back without doubt and there’s no shifting Evra from left back. The only two places which come under change could be centre back but with Vidic suspended and Rio out, I think it will be down to Evans and Smalling to stop the likes of Crouch and Odemwingie from scoring.
Michael Carrick will sit out the game with injury hopefully meaning that Darren Fletcher will return to the side. I think Phil Jones may join him in the middle – a partnership which I can see working. Fletch has been great since coming back, he’s been dynamic and he’s kind of what we missed at the start of the season. With Phil Jones sitting back it will allow Fletcher to pick up the balls in midfield and feed attack. It was a good move to rest Januzaj against Cardiff, giving him just the five minutes at the end. I think he may end up on the bench again today if we play a three man midfield so I therefore expect it will be Cleverly who takes the final midfield starting place.
Simply put, RVP is where the goals are at. He was last season’s top scorer and returned with a goal against Cardiff. I think he’ll start up front on his own with Mata and Rooney sat behind him in something of a 4-3-2-1 formation, using Rooney and Mata to push out onto the wings when needed. I wouldn’t usually predict such an attacking formation from Moyes but I think he’ll be eager to get Mata and Rooney in together to form a good partnership which could prove lethal come the end of the season.
Rafael Evans Smalling Evra
Fletcher Jones Cleverley
Who would be in your starting XI against Stoke City?