The Bet 365 Stadium welcomes the league leaders on Saturday afternoon, as Mark Hughes’s Stoke City face Manchester United. The visitors couldn’t have wished for a better start to the campaign, as Mourinho’s men recorded three successive wins without conceding a goal.
Despite suffering a 1-0 defeat against Everton on the opening day, Potters fans will also be content with their opening 3 games as they followed up the loss with an unexpected 1-0 victory against Arsenal and well-earned draw away to high-flyers West Bromwich Albion.
Stoke vs Manchester United
Premier League – Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Saturday 9th September, 17:30
Best Odd of: 13/2 at Ladbrokes
Best Odd of: 7/2 at Ladbrokes
Best Odd of: 1/2 at Ladbrokes
Stoke performed well in the transfer window, as they got rid of a lot of deadwood in place for younger, fresher players. Jonathon Walters, Glen Wheelan and Phil Bardsley, all of whom are over 32 years of age, were sold by the club. While Austrian forward Marko Arnautovic was intelligently sold to West Ham for around £20m, far above his worth even in this summer’s market. To replace them, in came a plethora of exciting acquisitions. Central defenders Kurt Zouma and Kevin Wimmer arrived from Chelsea and Spurs respectively, the former on loan and the latter for around £18m.
In attack, Cameroonian striker Maxim Choupo-Moting was acquired on a free from Bundesliga outfit Schalke, while PSG winger Jese came on a season long loan. The Spaniard hit the ground running in his first Premier League appearance versus Arsenal; causing problems for opposition defenders and ultimately scoring the only goal of the game. The Potters also brought in 33-year-old central midfielder Darren Fletcher on a free from West Brom. Although this contradicts the rest of their business, the Scottish international was pivotal in the Baggies’ overachievement last season and still has a lot to offer.
Manchester United also had a positive transfer window, bringing in three high quality players in, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof. Lukaku, who scored 25 Premier League goals last campaign, arrived from Everton for around £75m and has hit the ground running at his new club; netting three goals in as many games for the Red Devils. Lindelof has made less of an impression since moving from Benfica for around £35m, failing to make a Premier League appearance, with Mourinho favouring Phil Jones in Central defence. Finally, United made what many people are calling the signing of the transfer window, as they snatched highly rated defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic from direct title rivals Chelsea for just £40m.
The Serbian’s positional awareness and defensive solidity in the centre of the park has freed up the likes of Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mikhitaryan to get forward in attack, shown as they have played a part in 8 of United’s 10 league goals so far this season.
In all three of their opening games, Stoke have adopted a 3421 formation. A dangerous front 3 of Shaqiri and Jese in behind Choupo-Moting will likely feature once more on Saturday, however Choupo-Moting could be out with injury, if so Peter Crouch would come in. This will be anchored by an uninspiring, yet solid, midfield duo of Joe Allen and Darren Fletcher. At wingback, Pieters and Diouf will likely start again, but it is 3 three in front of Jack Butland which will be difficult to predict. Zouma and Shawcross will probably start again, alongside Kevin Wimmer who might come in to replace Geoff Cameron. For Man United, Tuesday’s champions League fixture against Basel may cause Mourinho to rest players, however I think he’ll stick with the same eleven to keep the consistency needed for a Premier League title challenge.
Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer
Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters
Manchester United (4231)
Valencia, Jones, Bailly, Blind
Mata, Mkhitaryan, Martial
Man United have been brilliant in the first 3 games of the season, although the results perhaps flatter their chance creation in attack. I predict the visitors will come out 2-1 winners, with Lukaku, Pogba and Allen to score!