How Manchester United Will Line Up Against Stoke
With Tottenham Hotspur and Everton both getting thrashed this week, whilst Manchester United earned a comfortable 2-0 win against Cardiff, David Moyes will be hoping to climb up the table this weekend with a victory against Stoke.
Mark Hughes will want to get one over on his former club, particularly with his side falling to just three points off the relegation zone, but he will have a job on his hands.
United have already beaten Stoke 2-0 at the Britannia in the League Cup this season and 3-2 in the league at Old Trafford.
But how will the champions line up against Stoke this weekend?
Jonny Evans has been United's most consistent performing centre-back this season so will almost certainly be starting against Stoke. Against Cardiff during the week he put in a great shift alongside Chris Smalling, who is clearly much more suitable for a central role in defence rather than at right-back where he has struggled this season.
With Nemanja Vidic still suspended after that soft red card against Chelsea and Rio Ferdinand barely featuring for two months, Moyes should stick with Smalling and Evans.
Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra will get picked to play regardless of form because United don't have any other full-backs. Fabio da Silva has gone, for some bizarre reason, without being given a go in the first team. Alexander Buttner is, at a push, an option, but it's slim pickings for United where this position is concerned.
Both add plenty to United's attack but defensively, especially Evra, the two have been lacking recently.
Darren Fletcher has been United's best performing midfielder this season which is fairly incredible when you consider he has just returned from a year away from playing. Still, to say he's been the best doesn't necessarily mean he's been brilliant, as United's midfield has been severely below par this season.
Fletcher should start but then it's a toss-up between Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley to partner him. Neither have been impressive over the past few weeks, but the decision may come down to the fact Jones played for 90 minutes during the week whilst Cleverley only came on for the final 20 minutes.
Depending on how adventurous Moyes intends to be, he could play three in midfield to accommodate for our wealth of attacking options. Maybe Stoke away isn't the best time to trial a new formation though.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have started just eight games together this season because of injuries. United won six of these and drew the other two. With both making an appearance midweek, Moyes should bring the first choice strikers back in to the fold against Stoke.
You would have to imagine that new signing Juan Mata will start too, given the reason he left Chelsea was for playing time, and having barely played in January, he will be fresh.
If Moyes goes with three in midfield, United could start Van Persie up front with Mata and Rooney supporting him. If he plays it safe, with the familiar 4-4-2, Mata and Adnan Januzaj might start out wide either side of a two-man midfield.