Despite the Red Devils improving under the stewardship of Mourinho, Manchester United still sit sixth in the Premier League table, just behind bitter rivals Manchester City. Their draw with Liverpool ended their run of seven straight league victores, but United are findng form and the signs are positive. Meanwhile, it has not been the best season at Stoke, who currently lie in ninth in the league, hoping a win will get their atmospheric fans making noise again.
LAST TIME OUT
Sunderland 1-3 Stoke City
In what was an explosive first half, by which all four goals came in the first 45 minutes, Stoke taught Sunderland a football lesson. A Marko Arnautovic brace and a header by veteran Peter Crouch, after a long looping ball into the box from Charlie Adam, virtually sealed all three points after 35 minutes. Jermain Defoe grabbed a late consolation for the hosts. It was a poor afternoon for Sunderland who suffered another defensive horror show, especially from ‘keeper Vito Mannone.
Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
In what was deemed one of the fiercest derby fixtures in football history, this failed to live up to it’s high expectations. James Milner put the away side in front from the penalty spot after Paul Pogba gave away an inexplicable handball from a corner, and the record of Liverpool not losing a game when Milner has scored remains. Superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the saviour once again in the 88th minute to salvage a point.
Stoke City Lineup
Mame Biram Diouf and Wilfried Bony are both at the Africa Cup of Nations so neither will play against Manchester United. Jack Butland is a long-term absentee and Jonathan Walters is out too. Bojan Krkic has revealed his desire to leave so is unlikely to feature.
Manchester United Lineup
With no fresh injury problems, Mourinho will likely stick with a similar side. Juan Mata could come back in for either Anthony Martial or Henrikh Mkhitaryan, whilst Luke Shaw is short of match fitness.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Crouch accolade
Across the Premier League, the neutral fan cannot help but love the attitude of Peter Crouch, and the former England forward is on course for a milestone. Can he achieve it? Crouch is one goal away from his 100th in the Premier League, though only two of his 99 have come against Manchester United (2 in 23 games).
The importance of Ibrahimovic
Many were questioning whether the former AC Milan frontman can keep up with the pace of the Premier League, but the Swedish striker has answered that. Ibrahimovic’s 14 league goals have won Manchester United 11 points this season; no player has won more for this side (level with Diego Costa), while only Ruud van Nistelrooy and Dwight Yorke (15 each) scored more goals in their first 20 Premier League games for United than the Swedish striker has managed (14).
Adam on form
Another veteran that is on form at the moment is Stoke’s Charlie Adam and the Scottish midfielder is looking to carry this on. Adam has provided three assists in his last two Premier League games, as many as he had in his previous 71 matches.