Another abysmal performance saw Manchester United fall to Southampton at home in the Premier League. A shockingly mundane display saw United create absolutely nothing before conceding a late header from substitute Charlie Austin. However, a much better showing saw United progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup beating Derby 3-1. One of the major positives off late has been Wayne Rooney’s return to form. 6 goals in 6 matches and an absolute stunner against Derby has proved all his doubters wrong.
A poor performance at the Britannia last time out ended in a 2-0 defeat to Stoke on Boxing Day. 5 points off 4th spot, this game is a must win for Manchester United. Stoke haven’t been having a great time off late either. Losses to West Brom and Leicester were followed by a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Liverpool.
These are three key battles that could decide the game:
Morgan Schneiderlin vs Xherdan Shaqiri
The Frenchman has been indispensable for United so far this season. Even if he might not be controlling the midfield each game, he provides a much needed layer of protection. He’s made some vital interceptions and his pass percentage is very high which works well for a team such as United that plays a possession game. Xherdan Shaqiri has been showcasing his creativity and skill for Stoke City this season. He was instrumental in their win against Manchester City linking up beautifully with Marko Arnautovic. If United are to get the 3 points, Schneiderlin will have to shut down Shaqiri and ensure he’s not given much time and space on the ball.
2. Anthony Martial vs Glen Johnson
Anthony Martial has been in sublime form for Manchester Untied. Although he’s being made to play out on the left, he’s been doing a very good job. His brilliant performance against Derby saw him earn the Man of the Match award. His pace and skill often causes trouble for fullbacks as he looks to take them on. Glen Johnson has done well for Stoke City so far this season. He also likes getting forward and joining the attack which means Martial has his defensive work cut out for him.
Matteo Darmian vs Marko Arnautovic
If Darmian starts at right-back, he’ll have a tough job at hand dealing with Arnautovic. The Austrian has been in decent form for Stoke City this season. He was crucial in the Potters’ victory over United earlier on in the season scoring a stunner to double their lead. Darmian has had a tough time after an impressive start to the season. Switching between right and left back, he’s been struggling to find form. He’s got to ensure Arnautovic is not given the freedom to play his game.