Ferguson set for Potters challenge

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

"You know what Tony Pulis's team will be like, they are the same all the time," Ferguson said. "They will be 100% committed and they always get stuck in. You have to cope with that."

He added: "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 and in terms of taking the ball and playing football.

"Stoke are a different team altogether but they still have the same qualities of never giving in, so it is always a good challenge for us."

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 - which United are competing for as a direct result of their Champions League failure - as the only other trophy they can win, focus on the domestic campaign has to be total.

Three points behind Manchester City already, United cannot afford to slip any further adrift 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 here.

"It is important to keep on City's coat-tails and hopefully come the important part of the season, we still are."

Source: PA

Source: PA