Manchester United face a struggling Stoke City in need of win on Sunday. A loss for United and their title rivals could begin to smell blood. A win and United edge ever closer to title number 20. Ashley Young, Paul Scholes and probably Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling will not be available for this game due to injury.
David de Gea: After conceding against Manchester City, De Gea will be looking to return to his clean sheet ways by keeping Stoke at bay.
Rio Ferdinand: With some defensive injuries going round, Ferdinand is certain to keep his place for Sunday.
Jonny Evans: After training all week, the increasingly authoritative Evans is odds on to partner Rio on Sunday. Phil Jones’ good performance against City may make Sir Alex Ferguson think twice though.
Patrice Evra: A game away to West Ham in midweek is unlikely to mean a rest for Evra against Stoke. The Frenchman appears to need no rest.
Antonio Valencia: Valencia’s width and positioning has proved important at times this season, especially with a more fluid left-side. A decent record against Stoke may also inspire the Ecuadorian for Sunday.
Michael Carrick: That game at West Ham in the week may mean a rest for Carrick at any other time but the importance of winning this game against Stoke means United’s midfield master will almost certainly start on Sunday.
Phil Jones: Despite Cleverley’s recent lack of minutes, the more physical and aerially able Jones is likely to be selected in central midfield against Stoke, assuming he isn’t picked in defence.
Shinji Kagawa: Kagawa hasn’t started in United’s last two matches meaning a left-sided position may be beckoning him on Sunday.
Javier Hernandez: The little Mexican is due a game. Not only because he has such a great goals-to-minutes ratio but because of United’s misfiring strike force. His record against Stoke is fantastic too.
4-4-1-1 is likely to be the formation against Stoke with Kagawa cutting in from the left at times. Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie often prove their worth at defending set-pieces but the likely rests for them both suggest that Phil Jones will start in midfield to compensate for their absence.
A strong team is not questionable for United who need a win. Ferguson may however have one eye on Wednesday’s game with West Ham and the predicted rests for van Persie and Welbeck could be vital. The likes of Anderson, Nani, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic may all be ready to also come in on Wednesday – something that again highlights the depth of United’s squad.