Manchester United v Stoke City preview: Potters out to impress new boss Paul Lambert
Last Updated: 15/01/18 8:31pm
Stoke City travel to Manchester United live on Monday Night Football looking to impress new boss Paul Lambert and end a 17-game winless run in all competitions at Old Trafford stretching back to April 1976.
Stoke, who slipped into the relegation zone after a run of just two wins in 12 Premier League matches, sacked Mark Hughes last week following their humiliating FA Cup defeat at Coventry.
Eddie Niedzwiecki has been in temporary charge, taking training ahead of the daunting Monday Night Football clash, but the Potters finally landed Hughes' successor on Monday morning, appointing Lambert on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
The Scot will not officially take charge until Tuesday but will watch from the stands as he starts work on a survival plan for a side a point adrift of safety, albeit with this game in hand.
U18s boss Kevin Russell, who will assist Niedzwiecki with the first team for the final time, insists the Stoke players are in the right frame of mind.
"The players have been fantastic since and acquitted themselves really well," he said.
"It was a little bit difficult to begin with and we gave them the day off on Tuesday after Mark left, to help them get their heads around it a little bit. But since then they have been right at it. The players will be hurting but they have a chance to try and rectify it on Monday."
United, meanwhile, head into Monday evening's clash hoping to stay in touch with runaway leaders and rivals Manchester City - who lost 4-3 at Liverpool on Super Sunday - at the top of the table. Jose Mourinho's men can close the gap to 12 points with victory.
However, Mourinho will be unable to call upon the services of veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Potters' visit.
The 36-year-old Swede returned from a career-threatening knee injury in November, just seven months after suffering the problem, but he has not featured since Boxing Day having broken down again.
"Zlatan is injured or is not totally happy with his condition," Mourinho said.
"He fought like a tiger - like he likes to say - to be back, which he did, he was starting having minutes here and there and had a start and had 60 minutes of one game, start another one and had 45 and he was not happy with his feelings.
"He consulted other doctors, other opinions and we all make the decision to stop, (get) treatment and when (he's) feeling really good come back to the work and the date for him to be back to training with the team was around end of January, beginning of February, so let's hope his feelings are better and we have him with us as soon as possible."
United hope right-back Antonio Valencia will be fit to face Stoke after a recent hamstring injury, although Mourinho will be without the likes of Ibrahimovic (hamstring), centre-back Eric Bailly (ankle) and midfielder Michael Carrick (heart).
Meanwhile, Stoke could have Erik Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi available for the trip to Old Trafford. The Dutch pair have stepped up their recoveries from hamstring and groin injuries respectively, returning to training this week.
It was also hoped skipper and fellow defender Ryan Shawcross, recently sidelined by a calf problem, would also be involved in training ahead of the game.
There may be a debut for right-back Moritz Bauer after his switch from Rubin Kazan to the Potters.
United have won 25 of a possible 27 points in Premier League home games against Stoke, with the only points dropped coming in this exact fixture last season (1-1).
The last three league games between these sides have ended level - the last side United drew four consecutive league games against was Leeds United, a run of five between 1982 and 1991.
After a run of eight consecutive league wins at Old Trafford, United have won just one of their last four at home (W1 D2 L1).
Only two of the 10 previous clubs who conceded 47+ goals after 22 Premier League games have survived relegation at the end of the season - Swansea in 2016-17 (51 goals) and Wigan in 2009-10 (47 goals).
The Potters have never lost a Premier League away game on a Monday before, winning three and drawing five of their eight games. Their last top-flight away defeat on a Monday was in May 1985 (1-5 vs Ipswich).
However, United have lost just one of their 29 Premier League home games played on a Monday (W21 D7 L1), against Man City in April 2013 (1-2).
(Speaking before Lambert's appointment)
With Stoke yet to appoint a successor to Mark Hughes, I fear for them at Old Trafford. They're in disarray and to get beaten at Coventry in the FA Cup was unbelievable, no disrespect to Coventry. They're in major trouble and I see a routine win for United to maintain their top-four challenge.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)