News that Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson had patched up their differences didn’t overjoy Stoke boss Tony Pulis who anticipates Manchester United’s season could now take off and his side is first in the firing line.
Online bookmakers are giving away free bets to new customers and cash back special offers for the Premier League clash between Stoke and Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday at 1.30pm.
Pulis told reporters: “It is not good for us, obviously, everyone at United will now be able to focus.
“If they win the title this season, this could be the moment they look back on in May and realise that was where it changed.”
Rooney has signed a new five year deal with United which will quiet the media speculation that threatened to distract the attention of the squad which has been suffering lapses in concentration on the pitch.
United trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by 8 points, due largely to a new found habit of throwing away comfortable winning leads to concede late draws.
With the Rooney saga closed, Sir Alex Ferguson can focus on a remedy to the malaise which starts with the visit to Stoke where a win will lift them from sixth to leapfrog neighbours Manchester City into second place.
Rooney may not be available for Sunday’s game after aggravating an old ankle injury in midweek, forcing him out of the Champions League game against Bursaspor in midweek.
Central defender Jonny Evans is doubtful with hip injury and striker Michael Owen may not be available as he struggles to shake off a hamstring problem.
Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves are expected to remain sidelined for another week at least while Antonio Valencia’s recovery from a broken leg will stretch into the new year.
Ferguson rested Edwin van der Sar and Dimitar Berbatov for the midweek Champions League game and both are expected to be recalled such is the importance the manager is giving this game.
United’s Portuguese midfielder Luis Nani has much expected of him this season and has contributed with three league goals so far this term and hit the early winner against Bursaspor on Wednesday.
Boylesports bet 5/2 Nani will continue to be a huge influence for United by scoring at anytime during the game.
Pulis has calmed Stoke’s nervous start to the season and three wins from five games has put them back into familiar territory and within a point of a top half spot.
It’s a big ask, although not impossible, to expect Stoke to get all three points from Sunday’s match but Victor Chandler are offering odds of 11/4 for Pulis’ tough team to force a share of the points.
Striker Ricardo Fuller will have a late fitness test on his shoulder and Pulis could use the extra firepower up front with goals still proving hard to come by.
Other than long term absentee Mamady Sidibe, Pulis has no other injuries or suspensions to hinder his team selection.
Possible starting lineups:
STOKE: Sorensen, Huth, Faye, Shawcross, Collins, Pennant, Delap, Diao, Etherington, Fuller, Jones
MAN UNITED: Van der Sar, Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Scholes, Park, Berbatov, Hernandez.