Leaving it late in the League Cup
Stoke City barely scraped by Championship side Blackpool in the Carling Cup in midweek, with a late winner from previously shamed defender Andy Griffin the difference between the two sides. In Griffin’s first appearance since last December’s bust-up with team-mate Ricardo Fuller in a league match against West Ham United, the former Stoke captain is looking to put the unfortunate fracas in the past in hopes of more first team appearances under Tony Pulis.
Pulis has led the Potters to tenth place in the Premier League table at this early stage of the season, performing miracles with a squad which has suffered its share of injuries and misfortunes. Stoke looked to have fought a hard-earned draw against Chelsea in week five, only to have the Blues pull off one of their trademark late shows to take all three points at the Britannia Stadium.
Pulis has also had to contend with an injury to James Beattie, who after arriving at the club in January last season from Sheffield United, has been in fine form, scoring seven times in 21 appearances. Keeping a healthy squad will be vital for Pulis over the course of the season as he looks not only to keep the Potters in the Premier League, but also potentially to guide them to a top ten finish.
Young Red Devils see off Wolves
Sir Alex Ferguson will have mixed feelings after seeing his young side pull off a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. With some of the less experienced and younger members of the squad having been given their chance to impress, Brazilian defender Fabio da Silva found himself sent-off midway through the first half after an unsightly challenge on Wolves’ Michael Kightly. His dismissal would have a domino effect for young United hero Federico Macheda, who was sacrificed for defensive reinforcement in the form of another youngster, Ritchie De Laet.
Although things did not quite go to plan in the League Cup, Ferguson can now focus on catching up with Chelsea in the Premier League. After controversially overcoming Manchester City’s challenge last weekend, Manchester United will travel to the Britannia Stadium to take on a hungry Stoke side.
Centre-back Rio Ferdinand is struggling for form after coming back from an early-season injury, while Ferguson could have a selection headache given the recent form of Michael Owen. Owen has impressed through goals in the Manchester derby as well as an assist in the win over Wolves, while Dimitar Berbatov has continued to disappoint with his lacklustre and underwhelming performances.
Danny Welbeck scored the winner against Wolves, and since bursting into the first team squad last season, will be looking to break into the starting eleven as often as possible. The race is on to partner Wayne Rooney up front for Manchester United, while Rio Ferdinand will have to pick up the slack at the back to get the Red Devils back to the Premier League summit.
Leyton Orient 0-1 Stoke City (League Cup)
Stoke City 1-0 Sunderland (EPL)
Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea (EPL)
Bolton 1-1 Stoke City (EPL)
Stoke City 4-3 Blackpool (League Cup)
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (EPL)
Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United (EPL)
Besiktas 0-1 Manchester United (CL)
Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City (EPL)
Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton (League Cup)
Tony Pulis is waiting on news for strike pair Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie, both picking up knocks in Stoke’s win over Blackpool.
Fuller has encountered a groin strain that could keep him sidelined.
An ankle injury flare-up is threatening to sideline James Beattie, who only recently regained full fitness.
Richard Cresswell could be recalled into the squad to partner Dave Kitson, while Tuncay Sanli is also in contention for a starting berth.
Possible Starting XI: Sorensen, Huth, Faye, Shawcross, Collins, Delap, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Kitson, Tuncay.
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Edwin Van der Sar will be absent for three more weeks, also proclaiming that Ben Foster will continue as his stand-in.
Owen Hargreaves is also easing back into first team contention and is reportedly now just a month away from returning.
Michael Owen could earn a starting berth this weekend after positive performances in his last two matches.
Paul Scholes is back from suspension after being sent off against Tottenham.
Rafael da Silva is out with a shoulder injury while Gabriel Obertan has suffered a back strain.
Possible Starting XI: Foster, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Valencia, Fletcher, Anderson, Rooney, Berbatov.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dave Kitson is finding his feet at Stoke City, netting three goals in the league already this season. His performance will be crucial on Saturday with Beattie and Fuller potentially sidelined, leaving him with the bulk of the offensive responsibilities.
Having already suffered an early season injury set-back, Rio Ferdinand is struggling for form for Manchester United. Gifting a well-taken goal to Craig Bellamy in the Manchester derby, Ferguson will be hoping the Rio of old emerges against Stoke City.
Manchester United are eager to stay on the heels of Chelsea, who are the only team in the Premier League still unbeaten. The Red Devils have endured an early season hiccup to Burnley, one they will not be eager to repeat against Stoke City.
Ferguson’s selection up front should prove interesting as he searches for a partner to Wayne Rooney. Michael Owen’s recent good form might have the former Newcastle man starting this Saturday, yet Ferguson could give Dimitar Berbatov another bite at the apple.
Tony Pulis will field his strongest side in hopes of slaying the Old Trafford giants. The Potters have managed a decent start to the season, and a win against the reigning champions could work wonders for Stoke’s confidence.
However, a striker shortage could wreak havoc on Pulis's’side, with both James Beattie and Ricardo Fuller potentially sidelined for this clash. That leaves leading scorer Dave Kitson to lead the line at the Britannia Stadium, looking to add to the three goals he has already scored this season with either Richard Cresswell or Tuncay Sanli.
Alkthough Stoke will leave it all on the pitch, the Red Devils have momentum left over from their triumph in the Manchester derby. With an eye on Chelsea, it is hard to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson and his men will let this one slip away.