Ferguson: 'We must keep on the coat-tails of City'

 

Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing the prospect of his Manchester United side facing the unique challenge presented by Stoke City at Old Trafford tonight.

After Saturday's FA Cup defeat to Liverpool, an encounter with Tony Pulis's battlers would not normally be viewed as the ideal method of recovery.

Yet, in much the same way as the Red Devils tended to overcome Bolton during the era under Sam Allardyce, when the Wanderers managed to get under the skin of all the other big clubs, they have emerged relatively unscathed in their meetings with Stoke. A draw at the Britannia Stadium in September represented the first points dropped to the Potteries outfit since they were promoted to the Premier League in 2008.

And United must go back to 1976 for their last Old Trafford loss to Stoke. "You know what Tony Pulis's team will be like, they are the same all the time," said Ferguson. "They will be 100 per cent committed and they always get stuck in. You have to cope with that. To be honest, I always enjoy it to.

"It was like when we used to play Wimbledon. No one used to look forward to playing against them but my team started to because it was a physical challenge. Stoke are a different team altogether but they still have the same qualities of never giving in."

The weekend setback has placed even more emphasis on the next few weeks, when Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham must all be faced. With the Europa League as the only other trophy United can win, focus on the domestic campaign has to be total.

Three points behind Manchester City already, United cannot afford to slip if they are to gain any advantage from their vast experience over the run-in.

"It is a big programme," said Ferguson. "From the middle of January until we go to Tottenham, it looked quite a daunting programme. But when you go back years ago in our title campaigns, we have always had periods of must-win games in a row and that is what we have. It is important to keep on City's coat-tails and hopefully, come the important part of the season, we still are."

Although Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley and Anderson are all inching closer to full fitness, it seems Nani may be out for a significant period with a foot injury. Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are continuing to nurse ankle problems, so the main avenue of good news from the treatment table could come from Rio Ferdinand, who has returned to training after a back spasm.

Yet again this season, United find themselves having to haul themselves off the floor, just as they did after that 6-1 hammering by Manchester City in October. Defender Jonny Evans emphasised the kind of mentality that is being demanded by Ferguson.

"We responded really well after the 6-1 defeat against City and then the losses against Blackburn and Newcastle," Evans said. "We went on a great run after the City game and then after New Year we've beaten both City and Arsenal away. That's what this team does.

"Every player knows what is expected. When you're at Manchester United you know defeats like that aren't acceptable. We don't need anybody else to tell us that. We know it deep down."

MAN UNITED V STOKE

Man Utd: LINDEGAARD; RAFAEL; SMALLING; FERDINAND; EVRA; VALENCIA; CARRICK; GIGGS; PARK; HERNANDEZ; BERBATOV

Stoke City: SORENSEN; WILSON; HUTH; SHAWCROSS; WOODGATE; ETHERINGTON; WHELAN; WHITEHEAD; SHOTTON; WALTERS; CROUCH

Kick-off 8pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.45pm)

Ref M Jones (Cheshire) Odds: MU 1-4; Draw 9-2; Sto 12-1.

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker