United could change formation vs Stoke

Man Utd vs Stoke in their fourth Premier League fixture of the season and Jose Mourinho might be tempted to make a tactical change.

Does Mourinho recall Rashford?

The decision to start Juan Mata at Stoke in January signalled something of a shift for Jose Mourinho and United. In his last league win at Stoke, Mourinho brought John Obi Mikel in to beef up Chelsea's midfield for the slight forward Oscar and Sir Alex Ferguson was prone to similar changes. Jonny Evans started more Premier League matches than Nemanja Vidic in 2012-13 yet Ferguson restored the Serb in the Potteries.

Stoke is maybe the kind of fixture Mourinho would have started his 'fourth player', had he signed him. Ivan Perisic and Gareth Bale are maybe more durable widemen than United's current options yet Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford are unlikely to be intimidated by Geoff Cameron.

Both wingers have begun the campaign brightly and made impacts in isolated periods. Rashford was influential for England in midweek once he swapped wings and Mourinho has the luxury of knowing whomever doesn't start could provide a matchwinning moment in the final third of the game.

Will United change formation?

Maybe Mourinho trialled a back three during pre-season and in the Super Cup in anticipation of other Premier League clubs resorting to the in vogue formation. Stoke are one of them and did not look comfortable with three central defenders even in their win over Arsenal. The visitors lofted the ball over their narrow defence time and again and the runners were rarely tracked during a dominant Arsenal first-half.

The other incentive for United to switch to a back three might be Tuesday's Champions League opener against Basel. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof are guaranteed to start in the absence of suspended pair Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, so readying one of them with an outing at Stoke might be sensible.

Can Mkhitaryan match assist record?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has already tallied five assists in three league games - as many as he ended last season with - having created two goals against West Ham and Swansea before crossing for Rashford's winner against Leicester two weeks ago.
If the Armenian claims another assist at the Bet 365 Stadium he will become the third player in the Premier League era to have accumulated six assists in his first four appearances.

Thierry Henry began the 2004-05 campaign with two assists for Arsenal in their thrashing of Everton and was a provider in the wins over Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers, before he claimed another pair of assists at Norwich.

Mourinho was Cesc Fabregas' manager when he emphatically returned to English football with two assists in Chelsea's opening win over Burnley. The Spaniard then set up goals in the victories over Leicester and Everton before he added two more versus Swansea.

Will Mourinho emulate Ferguson?

United's greatest manager presided over four straight victories at the start of only two league seasons with those scintillating starts in 2006 and 2011. Mourinho did likewise in all three of his championship-winning seasons at Chelsea and should he help United earn another three points at Stoke the belief among the squad will intensify.

Stoke hoodoo to end?

Before Ferguson retired, United's record at Stoke in the Premier League read played five, won four and one draw. No other top-flight side showed a bullishness comparable with United's amid the gales sweeping in off the A50 and it says much about United's plight they have not won a league match at Stoke since.

Stoke in the post-Ferguson era is synonymous with the word 'byline', thanks to David Moyes, and Louis van Gaal's United resembled Arsenal on their two trips there. Looking at the possible spine on Saturday of David de Gea, Bailly, Jones, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Lukaku, United are unlikely to resemble Van Gaal's weaklings.

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