Juan Mata warms up ahead of Manchester United
's clash against Cardiff, 28 January. Reuters
With Juan Mata adding that extra stardust to the Manchester United ranks, and Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie returning from injury, United will go into the English Premier League game at Stoke City confident of coming away with nothing but three points.
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Mata made his United debut in a 2-0 win over Cardiff City on Tuesday, with Van Persie, in a long-awaited return from injury, scoring the opening goal before Ashley Young made the game safe with a sumptuous strike.
The former Chelsea midfielder has given a lift to United's players upon his arrival and David Moyes will look to carry forward that good vibe when they take on former Manchester United player Mark Hughes' Stoke at the Britannia on Saturday.
"It has always been difficult to play against Stoke," new United man Juan Mata told the club's official website. "But if you try to play quickly, you can get chances to score and put yourself in a good position.
"They like to play long balls and they are a physical team, but we just need to play our own game with the quality players we have.
"We won't be intimidated. The thing I like the most is to play. No matter what the stadium. I like to play in a stadium like this because it helps me to improve and I hope I can play a great game."
The last time the two teams met in the Premier League, Stoke were unlucky to lose 3-2 at Old Trafford, with Rooney and Javier Hernandez scoring late goals to give United a last-gasp victory in October. Keeping that game in mind, Stoke assistant manager Mark Bowen insisted his side are capable of upsetting United at the Britannia.
"Whenever you play Manchester United it's difficult but with Mata, Van Persie and Rooney coming back into the fold we've had a few sleepless nights this week," Bowen told the club's official website. "But that's why we're in the game.
"Premier League games at home to Manchester United get the juices flowing for everybody. It's a game that we're not looking at with any fear or trepidation -- we'll just look to get out there and take the game to them. We feel, and quite rightly so, that we can give anyone a game on our own patch and I'm sure we will do tomorrow against United.
"We've played them twice and done well against them for 70 minutes but that doesn't really matter when you get beat. We'll take positives from the game though and think that, both home and away, we caused problems for them and can do so again.
"I'll settle for getting hammered, Asmir Begovic winning the Man of the Match and us winning 1-0, winning at the death. It doesn't matter how good or bad we play, getting something out of the game tomorrow is the key."
While United desperately need three points to keep in touch with fourth-placed Liverpool - Moyes' men can reduce the gap to three points with the Reds only playing on Sunday -- Stoke are equally desperate for points, with just three points separating them from third from bottom West Ham.
Team news: Stoke: Hughes failed in a late bid to bring in Lee Cattermole from Sunderland, the team that beat them in midweek, with the manager also set to be without Steven N'Zonzi, who is suspended. Robert Huth, Andy Wilkinson and Matthew Etherington remain doubtful.
Manchester United: Michael Carrick is set to return to the lineup after missing the win against Cardiff, but Nani is ruled out with a hamstring injury. Marouane Fellaini, however, could make a comeback from a wrist problem, with Rio Ferdinand also likely to be included in the squad.
Expected lineups: Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Whelan, Palacios; Walters, Adam, Arnautovic; Crouch.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Jones, Carrick; Januzaj, Rooney, Mata; Van Persie.
Prediction: 2-1 to Manchester United
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