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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019


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WHAT A DIFFERENCE a couple of days make. Over the past week, Martin O’Neill has looked nailed on for the Stoke City job on more than one occasion.

The saga finally came to end earlier today when the Potters announced O’Neill’s former player at Celtic, Paul Lambert, as their new manager.

Currently sitting in the relegation zone, Stoke have travelled to Old Trafford for this evening’s Premier League meeting with Manchester United.

Lambert has met the players but he won’t take over until after this game, meaning caretaker Eddie Niedzwiecki is in charge.

Kick-off is 8pm and the teams are out so we’ll have them for you in a tick.

Here you are, the starting XIs. United’s team shows three changes from their last Premier League fixture — a 2-0 win over Everton two weeks ago. Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku are in for Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera.

Manchester United: De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Valencia, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Lukaku, Martial.

Stoke, who were knocked out of the FA Cup by Coventry last time out, have brought in five players from the line-up that was beaten by Newcastle in the league on New Year’s Day. Moritz Bauer — a recent signing from Rubin Kazan — Josh Tymon, Bruno Martins-Indi, Stephen Ireland and Darren Fletcher all get the nod.

Stoke City: Butland, Bauer, Zouma, Martins-Indi, Tymon, Ireland, Allen, Shaqiri, Fletcher, Crouch, Choupo-Moting.

Former Ireland international Stephen Ireland made his first appearance of the season in that cup defeat to Coventry. The 31-year-old has retained his place, meaning he will play in a Premier League match for the first time since 7 May 2016.

Coventry City v Stoke City - FA Cup - Third Round - Ricoh Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

The record books certainly don’t side with Stoke for this one…

It’s that time of the evening, I’d like to hear your predictions. Tell us what score you think this game will finish, vote in our poll, or why not go wild and do both:

Poll Results:

Mourinho has just been speaking to Sky Sports on Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s omission from the squad: “I would lie if I said it was a purely tactical decision. It was just a choice of the players that we know at this moment have their head 100% in Manchester.

“I don’t think it’s easy for a player to play when there are doubts about his future. It’s best for him and best for us when there is doubt in the air.”

The Armenian has been linked with a switch to Arsenal as part of a player-plus-cash deal for Alexis Sanchez.

The players are emerging from the tunnel and we’re about to get started. It’s pouring rain at Old Trafford.

Flag 1Mins

Kick-off - Ireland tips the ball back and the game has begun. United in red, white and black, Stoke wearing their blue change strip.


United with an early attack as Pogba finds the run of Lukaku from deep. He lays off to the onrushing Martial, who attempts to complete the one-two but it’s snuffed out.


The home side are patient in the build-up and Mata eventually floats the ball into a central area in the box. Martial has made the run but takes a tumble under pressure from new man Bauer, who clumsily puts his arm around the Frenchman before falling to the ground.

There are appeals for a penalty but referee Anthony Taylor isn’t having it.

Flag 10Mins

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Stoke City (Antonio Valencia) 

The home side go in front! The ball is spread across the pitch and it eventually gets to Valencia, who cuts inside and lashes an unstoppable strike into the top corner. And with his left foot too!


Stoke look to hit back and Shaqiri attempts an acrobatic overhead kick, which is saved by De Gea.


Decent chance for Stoke and it falls to Ireland. The Corkman controls a pass 16 yards out from goal and gets a trike off but it’s dragged well wide.


Allen brings Lingard down 20 yards out and United have a free-kick in a dangerous area. Pogba and Mata stand over it, and the latter takes — drilling the ball against Stoke’s wall.


That will go down as a Stoke miss. The ball is put in from wide and, once again, it’s Ireland who latches onto it. He steers the effort off target, however.


Forgotten man Ireland has been heavily-involved so far. He robs Pogba of possession and then wins a free-kick.

From that, the ball is put into the box and Crouch heads downward with De Gea all at sea. It falls to Choupo-Moting but his shot is blocked behind by Jones. Promising from Stoke.


Good from United. Pogba goes past Allen like he’s not there and drives through the middle of the park. Mata breaks into the box and goes down easy with Martins Indi close by, but then jumps straight up to insist that he hasn’t dived.

Flag 38Mins

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City (Anthony Martial) 

They’ve doubled their lead. Accurate passing from Lukaku and Pogba tees up Martial on the edge of the Stoke box, and he lets fly with a brilliant first-time shot that Jack Butland can’t get near.


Martial tries to curl another one in from 20 yards but this time he can’t keep the strike down.

Just one minute of stoppage time to play.

Flag 46Mins

Half-time: Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City 

Just before the whistle, Shaqiri forces De Gea into a fine save.

Manchester United v Stoke City - Premier League - Old Trafford Stoke caretaker manager Eddie Niedzwiecki. Source: Mike Egerton


Pogba intercepts a Zouma pass and immediately threads through Martial. Butland is out quick to make a vital save though.


United looking for a third here. Mata and Pogba are involved and the latter clips a pass into Lukaku. The Belgian tries to flick it back but that doesn’t come off so he turns and drills a strike straight at Butland.


More dominance from the Red Devils. Mata’s cross is headed out as far as Pogba, who looks to curl it home with the outside of his boot. The ball strikes a Stoke body and goes behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.


What. A. Chance. Pogba finds Martial and he eventually gets the ball out of his feet but can only hit it into the body of Butland from close range.


Substitute – Stoke take off Choupo-Moting for Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi.


This should be at least three or four by now. Zouma makes a mistake and allows Lukaku to run at the Stoke defence. He cuts it back to Lingard, who helps the ball along to Mata. The Spaniard goes for the far corner but gets his angles slightly wrong.

Lingard has just picked up a booking for a silly foul too.


Good work from Shaw and Lingard before Mata blasts over. It’s one-way traffic at the moment.


Disallowed goal – Seconds later, Butland saves from Lukaku and the ball is put back in by Lingard. Mata flicks home but it’s rightly ruled offside.


Yellow card – A tired tackle from Ireland on Mata earns him a booking. He has faded in the second half.


Another change – Mame Biram Diouf, a former Man United player, is on for Crouch.

Flag 72Mins

GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City (Romelu Lukaku) 

Lukaku gets his names on the scoresheet. Lingard gives it to provider Martial, who pings a pass at the striker. His control is good and the finish leaves Butland helpless.


Off the post! Pogba’s ball is diverted goalward by the toe of Mata. Lukaku tries to make some contact but doesn’t and it strikes the post. A free-kick is given to Stoke for offside.


Double substitution – Mourinho takes off Martial and Lingard for Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini.


And here’s another change – Mata is withdrawn for 21-year-old Scott McTominay.


Pogba has been immense tonight. He pings a pass out to Valencia, who squares it to Rashford. The substitute gets something on the ball but Butland is able to get down and save.

Down the other end, Diouf beats Smalling and shoots at goal. De Gea saves and it comes back to the Senegalese international, but he can only find the side-netting.

Flag 90Mins

Full-time: Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City 

Martial shoots but Butland can keep it out. We’re into the two minutes of time added on and United now have a free-kick. It’s Pogba standing over the ball but he puts it high and wide. The final whistle goes and that’s all she wrote.

That result cuts Man City’s lead at the top to 12 points, while Stoke remain in a relegation scrap in 18th.

About the author:

Ben Blake


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