Manchester United has three wins in three and the fourth before the international break looks very possible. United also comes up against a side in horribly poor form, Stoke City, a side that is yet to win in the Premier League this season as the pressure mounts on Mark Hughes. United’s fluid midfield easily dispatched Leicester’s midfield sans N’Golo Kante, and scoring four goals should be an expectation at home against the worst side in the Premier League. Will United achieve that feat, though? Paul Bienkowski, Ryan Beecham and I, Aaron Moniz, will bring you the predictions for Sunday’s clash.
Paul Bienkowski: Manchester United have come a long way since their three-match losing streak, winning three matches in a row. That shows the mentality of the players, the manager and the way the club is perfecting its faults and aiming to return to the top of their game. United may not have played well in their three-match winning run, but they have won. The first half or twenty minutes of it against Leicester City was the best period of play this season, devastating the champions and scoring four goals, winning the match 4-1. United also scored three goals against Northampton Town and one against Zorya Luhansk, meaning they have scored eight goals in three matches, conceding twice. That sort of form may not be worth of winning the league, yet anyway, but is better than we saw last season, which is a great start. I think Jose Mourinho will pick the following side to face Stoke City.
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Herrera, Pogba; Martial, Mata, Rashford; Ibrahimovic
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has returned to training, albeit three days ago, which may not be enough to get him into the starting XI, but from the bench, he could be a player that raises his game against Mark Hughes fallen side. Hughes is under pressure, losing four league matches this season, drawing twice and desperate for his first victory, which he will want to come against his former club, wanting the same earlier in the season against Manchester City, but leaving disappointed after a 4-1 mauling.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City
Ryan Beecham: Manchester United and Jose Mourinho are finding their feet this season. If they can play like they did against Leicester City last week, this will be a great game of football, as long as the players are in the same mood and push for a humiliation. Mark Hughes is having a poor run, which could result in him being another manager looking for a job at some stage this season and if fortunes do not change, Stoke could find themselves in a precarious position, which could end in relegation. There is already a massive divide between them and the teams at the top of the league, but something he could turn around if he and his players tried. United need to head into the international break in high spirits, but more to the point, they need to return in high spirits too. The last break resulted in United coming back and losing to Manchester City, this does not need to happen again against Liverpool!
Starting XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Pogba, Herrera; Martial, Mata, Mkhitaryan; Rashford
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will probably start the match, but after playing 90 minutes only days ago, he could be used as an impact player from the bench. I would like to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan start, but after sitting out the last few matches due to injury, this may not happen either. I feel against Stoke, he could return to the top of his game and be the fourth player to show what he can do, meaning that all of Jose Mourinho’s new signings will have adapted to life in Manchester and performed like they were expected to do. The Armenian has not had things running smoothly yet, coming back from the last break carrying an injury, adding to a woeful performance against City, in which he was substituted at half-time along with Jesse Lingard. I think United will extend their winning run to four matches, which will shut the media up after their mocking during a terrible week for the club.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Stoke City
Aaron Moniz: Manchester United is finally in a stretch of good form, or at least on paper. United looked good against Northampton and great against Leicester, though under the lights at Old Trafford the Red Devils looked poor, almost dropping Europa League points to Zorya Luhansk. That being said, seven wins from 10 is hardly a poor way to start Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United tenure.
Going with the lineup I see, I couldn’t be so irritating as to change the lineup too much after such a great performance against Leicester. However, Stoke is a side with aerial threat, Antonio Valencia got destroyed by Demarai Gray last week and Timothy Fosu-Mensah was United’s key player against Zorya, so I’ve reinstated him in the lineup. United looked solid with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Paul Pogba, arguably the three best technical footballers at the club (barring Henrikh Mkhitaryan), in the midfield, and the introduction of Marouane Fellaini immediately negated the impact Pogba and Mata had on the game. Having Herrera deep in the midfield draws markers because he’s quite the attacking talent too, and that creates space for Mata and Pogba to be the magicians.
Starting XI: De Gea; Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Herrera; Mata, Pogba; Lingard, Ibrahimovic, Rashford
I get the sense United could struggle a little bit more than anticipated by most- Stoke will be as up for the challenge as former United player Mark Hughes, who happens to be managing Stoke. That being said, Jose Mourinho and United will know that this week is as good an opportunity as ever to gain points on Manchester City, who travels to Tottenham after a sub par result against Celtic. United won’t lose the game, but expect Stoke to put up quite the fight.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Stoke City