Manchester United finished 2014 with a draw at White Hart Lane and start the New Year with a game against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on New Years Day. 2014 hasn’t been the best year in Manchester United’s recent history, with the club having three managers in the year. They started the year under David Moyes, he was sacked in April after a poor run of results and United struggling in a unusual 7th place for the club having never finished outside the top 3 in the Premier League era.
After Moyes was sacked, United legend Ryan Giggs was asked to take charge of the final four games of the season, with help from his fellow class of 92 graduates Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville. Manchester United finished the season with two wins, a defeat and a draw. In the summer Louis Van Gaal was appointed manager and he made Giggs his assistant manager. After a tricky start under Van Gaal, United have ended 2014 on a nine game unbeaten run and in this run won six on the bounce.
The draw at Tottenham made it two draws for United in their last two away games, having won their previous two away games before that. United will be looking to get back to winning ways on the road at the Britannia Stadium. Since Stoke were promoted to the Premier League for the 2008/09 season, United have visited the Britannia Stadium on six occasions and won four, draw one and lost one, with the one defeat coming last season under Moyes so United will hoping to get back to the winning record they enjoyed at Stoke under Sir Alex Ferguson. Stoke normally have a very good record at home and it’s always a tough place to go and they seem to be finding their form at home after a slow start, they have won two of their last three games at home, with a defeat to Chelsea sandwiched between victories over Arsenal and West Brom.
The game at Tottenham saw the return of Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Rafael from the bench after they had all had spells on the side lines with injuries. Will this game at Stoke see United returning to the traditional back four with possibility of playing Shaw and Rafael in the full back positions again. Ashley Young and Antonia Valencia have performed remarkably well in the wing back positions, especially Young, as some questioned including myself whether he would be top perform the defensive side of the game as well as the attacking.
He looks like he’s been playing in the wing back position for years and Van Gaal knows he has that option to him and Valencia in the wing back positions if he wants play in this way. I feel he has only been playing this way because of the players available to him. Ander Herrera could also be in contention for a return to the match day squad after a recent spell injured. Louis Van Gaal again has some big decisions to make ahead of this game, will he play with a back four or a back three with wing backs? will Wayne Rooney continue in his midfield role? will Ander Herrera return to the starting eleven after his injury?