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Preview: United Face Sparky’s Stoke City on Boxing Day

Manchester United make the unenviable trip to face Mark Hughes’ improving Stoke City side in the Boxing Day lunchtime 12.45pm kick-off this Saturday. United go into the match on a 4 game winless run, having lost their last 2 matches to Norwich and Bournemouth respectively. Stoke City go into the Old Trafford encounter having lost 2, won 1 and drawn 1 with the lst loss comig to Crystal Palace with a 0-0 tie vs West Ham prior to that and an eye-catching 2-0 home win over United’s arch rivals Man City before that.  So previous form is not really much of an indicator as seemingly on current form either team could easily win the match.

When it comes to injuries although we have some bodies coming out of the sick-bay we still have 5 injuries according to Physioroom.com where on the long-term tip Luke Shaw (broken leg) is out until April 16th and Antonio Valencia (ankle/foot injury) is out until February 16th; Matteo Darmian (hamstring injury) is very likely out until December 28th; and then on a more depressing note both Jesse Lingard and Marcos Rojo are both out indefinitely until who knows when. You just never know how long this type of shoulder injury takes to get better particularly with Rojo who has a reoccurrence which is never good.

From the Stoke City point of view, Muniesa, Crouch, Cameron and Ireland are all out until early January with various hamstring injuries and the only player without a chance of returning anytime soon is Shay Given who is out with a knee injury and has not got a projected return date.

So Stoke City go into this fixture with recent history more on their side that you might think. While the Potters may have only won one of their last 14 Premier League matches vs the Red Devils (Winning 1 Tieing 2 and  Losing 11), in the most recent 4 games they have managed a decent record of winning 1, while Tieing 2 and only Losing 1 so given the way the Potters have been doing against the top teams this season Man United will need to deliver a top drawer performance if they hope to leave the Britannia with all the 3 points.

Some big pluses for United to draw from are that United have won 18 of their last 19 boxing day games – losing just once and the Potters have never kept a clean sheet vs United in the Premier League and Stoke have won 3 and lost 3 of their overall 7 Boxing day Premier League games.

The last statistic we will leave you with and we hope implores LVG to use Martial upfront centrally with Rooney in the no.10 role behind him and employ the most attacking team we can put out is that United have averaged a mere 1.29 goals per game in the Barclays Premier League which is by far the lowest since way back in 1989-90 when the measly average was a paltry 1.12 goals per game.

We don’t think a midseason manager change is the answer but something has to give and releasing the shackles of the offensive part of the team and allowing them to roam is surely overdue.