After a trip to Dubai for some sun and a little rejuvenation, Manchester United return to face Stoke City, who will hope for that new manager bounce, in the Premier League on Monday night.
Group EPL Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Key Stat: These sides have played out three straight score draws ahead of this league fixture.
Expert Verdict: Stoke City, even with a new manager, are going to be right up against it when this match kicks off. They have gotten draws recently against the Red Devils to show an ability to be a thorn in the side, but this is not the time for them to keep that up. United roll on as they prepare to defend second spot from a charging pack behind them.
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Jose Mourinho and his squad will return from Dubai rejuvenated and ready to go here for this match. However, he still will be missing right back Antonio Valencia, center back Eric Bailly, defensive midfielder Michael Carrick, and striker Zlatan to begin this stretch of the season.
During the festive period, Jose Mourinho had moaned a little about the fitness of Romelu Lukaku and claimed that the Belgian needed a break but that he couldn't afford to give him one. He had looked sluggish and off the pace from what he had been previously, so the hope is that he will now come back with a vengeance. He did score against Derby to help clinch progression, so look for him to to get back amongst the goals and add to his ten so far.
United have two wins and three draws in their last five matches:
2-0 home win vs Derby County (FA Cup)
0-2 win at Everton
0-0 home draw vs Southampton
2-2 home draw vs Burnley
2-2 draw at Leicester City
Defenders:Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Young
Midfielders:Herrera, Pogba, Fellaini
Forwards:Lingard, Martial, Lukaku
Caretaker boss Eddie Ziedzwiecki will be forced to sweat over the fitness of center back Bruno Martins Indi for this match.
With so much turmoil going on at the club, the Potters have had to let former United star Mark Hughes go. With him gone, they need to shore up their approach and simplify it a little for this match. That is where Peter Crouch could come in. The lumbering veteran has been big for his side at various times, and he could be a big factor here as Stoke attempt to frustrate and hassle United.
Stoke have three losses, a draw, and a win in their last five matches:
2-1 loss at Coventry City (FA Cup)
0-1 home loss vs Newcastle
5-0 loss at Chelsea
1-1 draw at Huddersfield
3-1 home win vs West Brom
Defenders:Cameron, Zouma, Wimmer
Midfielders:Edwards, Allen, Adam, Sobhi
Forwards:Diouf, Crouch, Ireland
In 78 meetings so far, Manchester United have a decided edge over Stoke City. The Red Devils have won 36 times, drawn 25 times, and lost 17 times so far. Here's a look at the last five results:
Sep 9, 2017: Stoke 2-2 United
Jan 21, 2017: Stoke 1-1 United
Oct 2, 2016: United 1-1 Stoke
Dec 26, 2015: United 3-0 Stoke
Jan 1, 2015: Stoke 1-1 United
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Manchester United are at 1/5 to win, a draw is at 5/1, and a Stoke City win is at 14/1.
Manchester United come into this match in second place in the Prem. They are on 47 points now, but they have just a one point gap over Chelsea and three point gap over Liverpool now as those sides close in. They have not lost any of their last five, but three draws in that middle of that sequence saw them fall even further off the pace of City. Stoke enter this round of fixtures in 18th place. They have 20 points, putting them in the relegation zone only due to goal difference at the moment. The bright side to it is that they are four ahead of both West Brom and Swansea beneath them.
The Red Devils' record at home this season has seen them pick up 26 points from 11 matches so far. They have just one loss there, to City, but they have had two straight draws that have also held them back. So all of their dropped points have came in the last five matches. The Potters have the worst record away from home in the league. They have earned just six points from a possible 33, and they have lost four of their last five while earning just one total point in those matches. Only ten goals scored has seen them have quite a hard time.
A no for both teams to score, via Ladbrokes, is set at 8/11.
The Potters have had a lot of trouble getting results of late, and the new manager may well pay off for them. But it won't do so yet, and the Red Devils will take full advantage to overcome and win.