Stoke to find Red Devils a different kind of beast
United can maintain fine start
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Mark Hughes’s men had a terrible record against the top six last season – three draws and nine losses from 12 games – and weren’t expected to topple the Gunners at the bet365 Stadium last month.
But a 1-0 win courtesy of a debut goal from Jese saw them land odds of 6-1 and showed that the old Pulis-era fighting spirit is still there.
However, it doesn’t mean that having seen off the Gunners they can also knock out Manchester United, who look far better equipped than the fragile Londoners to put Stoke in their place.
Stoke were fortunate to beat Arsenal, having been gifted the only goal of the game courtesy of poor defending from the Gunners, who had a goal wrongly disallowed and bossed affairs.
Hughes’s side were well organised and combative – just as they were in last season’s two 1-1 draws against United – but you can only ride your luck so many times and since United are a far better side than Arsenal at the moment, the away win looks the bet.
United have won all three league games this term, all to nil which is a 29-20 chance. Stoke, in contrast, have won only three of their last 14 in the league.
Mourinho has his team nicely balanced and the signing of Nemanja Matic was a masterstroke. Matic alongside Paul Pogba is the perfect midfield duo and the Frenchman has lifted his game this season.
They boast the same Arsenal-type threat up front, although they have a more direct and imposing centre-forward in Romelu Lukaku, a striker who has scored 16 goals in his last 18 league games and eight in six for club and country this season. He’s 3-1 to score first, but bear in mind he’s done that just once since February.
Lukaku will be delighted that Ryan Shawcross, Stoke’s warrior skipper, is an absentee and while there’s a lot to admire about Kurt Zouma and Bruno Martins-Indi, the home centre-backs will miss their leader.
United aren’t doing a lot differently from last season but so far – and the evidence is, of course, limited to just three games – they are taking the chances they create.
Stoke don’t create many chances. They have mustered just seven efforts on target in their three fixtures and accept they’ll have less of the ball than their opponents.
It’s odds-on that at least one team fails to score. Stoke have scored only 11 in their last 14 Premier League matches and their three games this season have produced only four goals.
Under 2.5 goals at evens has to be considered but a United win and under 3.5 is preferred.
Manchester United & under 3.5 goals
1pt 23-20 Betway, BoyleSports, Coral
Skipper Ryan Shawcross (back) is out so Kevin Wimmer could be involved. Darren Fletcher and Max Choupo-Moting hope to shake off knocks.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo are out.
In three games, United have had three times as many shots on target as Stoke (21-7).
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