Manchester United: 4 Players to Watch Against Stoke City This Weekend

Elliott BinksSenior Writer IIIOctober 18, 2012

Manchester United: 4 Players to Watch Against Stoke City This Weekend

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    Manchester United return to Premier League action this week, as they host 12th place Stoke City at Old Trafford on Saturday.

    Stoke have often proved to be notoriously tricky opponents, but United will be desperate to keep up the pace with league leaders Chelsea, who currently sit four points clear of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

    And while the Red Devils will require every player to be at their very best in order to defeat Stoke, there are a number of individuals whose performance may be more closely watched than others this weekend.

    This article identifies four of these key players to watch against Stoke, discussing exactly why they will be thrust into the limelight during the clash with the Potters.

Nani

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    The Portuguese winger has received a lot of criticism this term, and it only got worse for United's no. 17 during the international break.

    Nonetheless, he has still managed to feature in five out of seven league games this season, despite showing form far below his best.

    If he features against Stoke, a big performance will be required to prove the doubters wrong. And with United playing at home, expect a more open and free-flowing game to which Nani will be perfectly suited.

    He needs to kick start his season, and what better time or place then against Stoke at Old Trafford this weekend?

Robin van Persie

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    United’s top scorer this season has had something of a mixed bag of experiences against Stoke City in his career.

    With former club Arsenal, he managed five league goals in as many games when confronted with the Potters, but was sent off in one instance and suffered disappointing losses on two occasions.

    So which Robin van Persie will we see this weekend? The free-scoring striker who laid Stoke to the sword last season? Or the temperamental enigma who foolishly saw red for a challenge on goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen?

    After another goal for the Netherlands during the international break, one would have to assume the former. Either way, expect a big performance from van Persie as he looks to banish the memories of past dismissals and defeats.

Paul Scholes

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    While many of United’s key figures were busy turning out for their respective countries, Paul Scholes had some rest time due to his self-imposed international exile.

    So while the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and van Persie may be somewhat jaded from the rigours of international football and travel, Scholes will be as fresh as a daisy.

    Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step into the side and really take control of the game. Stoke are a particularly stubborn and well organised side, but if there’s anyone will the vision and skill to break them down, it’s Paul Scholes.

    Expect him to provide United’s creative edge and really orchestrate matters from the midfield position that he continues to claim as his own.

Wayne Rooney

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    Rooney had a brilliant week during the international break, captaining England and scoring three goals on his way to becoming the Three Lions’ fifth highest ever goalscorer.

    But how will Rooney feature against Stoke?

    The temptation will certainly be to have him lead the line after showing his prolific touch for England, but with Robin van Persie to accommodate, he may well find himself in something of a deeper role for United once again.

    Truth be told, he operated in a similar role for England, where he was essentially given free rein and dictated much of the play against San Marino last Friday.

    If he can replicate such goalscoring form from a deeper role against Stoke this weekend, Manchester United will be clear favourites to continue their march up the Premier League table.

Conclusion

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    While there are a number of players who could make the difference for United this weekend, these four are perhaps in the most intriguing and noteworthy situations.

    The rest of the team will obviously be of importance, but when it comes to finding that decisive edge, no one is more qualified to do so than Rooney and company.

    Either way, the match this weekend will be an exciting affair, as United look to capitalise on their convincing win over Newcastle before the interruption of the international break.

    Comment below with your thoughts heading into the Stoke game, and how you think the aforementioned foursome will fair this weekend.