When Manchester United prepare to kickoff against Stoke City in the English Premier League on Saturday, they could very well find themselves 11 points behind leaders Arsenal.
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney reacts to a missed opportunity against Real Sociedad in the Champions League, October 23
That particular scenario would have been near unthinkable at the start of the season, or even under Sir Alex Ferguson. But then periods of transition is never easy, especially when you are trying to move on the great man that is Ferguson.
The feeling is David Moyes will eventually steady the ship at Old Trafford. But the problem is that if the ship does not get back on course soon, there is a real possibility that it will not even find its way back to a Champions League position.
After a turgid and unconvincing win over Sunderland, United followed it up with a 1-1 draw against high-flying Southampton. Old Trafford, it seems, is far from a fortress now, leaving every Premier League team primed and ready to land another blow on the Red Devils.
"West Brom have gone there and won, so it's more than possible that we can get a positive result," Stoke manager and former United player Mark Hughes said. "We're playing well away from home, arguably slightly better away from home than we are at home, so if we can take our performance level and keep it high we can go there and be positive.
"You can't go to Old Trafford and be apprehensive about what's ahead of you. You have to be positive and have a go. Our expectations and the expectations of our fans are high. We want to go there and put in a positive performance -- if we do can that then let's see what happens."
The worrying aspect for United, apart from the results which sees them eighth with just 11 points, is the lack of creativity going forward. The likes of Robin Van Persie and Javier Hernandez, when he has played, have been starved for chances.
Which is why the form shown by youngster Adnan Januzaj has been such a positive for Moyes. The teenager provides United that X Factor, which has been missing so far in spades this season.
Januzaj, Wayne Rooney and Van Persie, if and when presented with the chances will need to sparkle against Stoke, who are struggling to find the back of the net a lot more that United, having managed just four all season.
Team News: Shinji Kagawa's performance in the Champions League against Real Sociedad was pleasing and Moyes will be tempted to give the Japanese international another run from the start. On the injury front, Moyes is confident of welcoming back Robin Van Persie, after the Dutchman was rested for the midweek win over Sociedad following knocks picked up over the course of the season.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are also expected to be available, but Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are likely to miss out yet again.
"Robin has a good chance," Moyes said. "He's had problems with his toes and a little bit with his groin as well, but I think he should be OK. He's had a little bit of training as well. Everybody's improving and the only one who's a doubt at the moment is Danny Welbeck, who has some fluid on his knee. Tom Cleverley is still recovering from his calf but overall we're pretty strong."
Hughes, aiming for his 100th win as a manager, has a slight doubt over centre-back Ryan Shawcross, but American international Geoff Cameron is expected to return from a groin injury.
Key men: Manchester United: All of the creative players that Moyes picks to play against Stoke. The pressure will be on Rooney, not just to score goals, but to create a few for his teammates as well.
Stoke: Stephen Ireland has the talent to cause problems to any team. Hughes will be hoping the former Manchester City midfielder comes to the fore against United on Saturday.
Where to watch
Expected lineups: Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj; Van Persie.
Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Pieters; Nzonzi, Adam; Walters, Ireland, Arnautovic; Jones.
Prediction: 2-0 to United
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Top Ten Richest Americans [PHOTOS]
- Top 10 Highest-Paid Tennis Athletes as Ranked by Forbes: Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and More
- Meet the Aussie “Belieber” Who Survived Car Accident When Kept Conscious by A Friend Talking About Justin Bieber [PHOTOS/VIDEO]
- "The Great Gatsby" vs. "The Rocket" at AACTA Awards 2014: What You Should Know About Top Feature Films Leading Aussie Oscars Nominations [PHOTOS/VIDEOS]