Man Utd V Stoke at Old Trafford - Match Preview

Sir Alex Ferguson is preparing to roll the welcome mat out for Stoke's "jolly green giants" insisting they hold no fears for Manchester United.

The statistics back up Ferguson's belief. In eight games since Stoke returned to the top flight in 2008 the Potteries outfit have collected just a single point against United.

Only Chelsea (two in nine) have enjoyed similar success, with Stoke taking eight points from nine games with both Arsenal and Manchester City, and 11 off Liverpool from a similar number of fixtures.

The key, according to Ferguson, as it used to be when facing Bolton and Wimbledon before them, is in the mind.

"We've got the jolly green giants coming to play against us," said Ferguson

"The biggest team in Europe. You can get yourself in a tangle about that because they are a handful at set-piece plays and long throw-ins, but you can't make a terror for yourself."

Ferguson has plenty of time for Tony Pulis, who has transformed Stoke's fortunes since his arrival at the club in 2006. He has no truck with those who believe Stoke's robust style has no place in the refined arena of the Premier League.

"Tony has done a fantastic job," said Ferguson.

"I can see progress every year, right from the foundations of the club in terms of youth players breaking through into the first team.

"Continuity brings consistency and they are a formidable outfit now."

Ferguson has major selection dilemmas in attack, which will not be made easier by the return of Ashley Young from a knee injury.

The 27-year-old made an excellent start to his United career, only to be stalled by an injury at Fulham last December, after which his form never truly recovered.

Young then endured a poor Euro 2012 before suffering a knee injury in the Old Trafford meeting with Fulham two months ago that condemned him to spend another couple of months on the sidelines.

In his absence, Ferguson has implemented a new diamond formation, without orthodox wide men, which in theory puts Young's place at risk.

However, the Scot believes Young will have spent much of his time out thinking about what might have been.

And that should drive him forward in the weeks ahead.

"The opportunities are there for him," said Ferguson.

"Ashley has the opportunity to win things here. I don't think that's lost on him.

"I'm sure during the time he's been out he's been thinking about that.

"That's what players do when they've been out, they start thinking about what should have been and what can be for them.

"That will hopefully surface as the season goes on."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis feels his side can only "do their best" when they take on big guns like United, claiming it is "not a level playing field" for such contests.

The Potters face United at Old Trafford, where they have been beaten by Sir Alex Ferguson's men on all four of their visits since their promotion to the top-flight in 2008.

Overall, they have lost seven and drawn one of their eight Premier League meetings with the Red Devils and reflecting on one of them - played in Manchester in January 2011 - Pulis said: "We got close. Nani scored and we got beaten 2-1.

"We probably played as well as we have played. We have had good periods in games up there, but they have always managed to get goals at the right time.

"The most important thing is that you go out there and do your best, but it is not a level playing field when you are playing against the top six or seven sides - you just look at the players they have, the money they have spent and their turnover compared to other clubs in the Premier League.

"United are one of those sides, but we will go up there and do our best - it is all we can do."

Pulis will assess the condition of Glenn Whelan and Michael Owen ahead of the game against the latter's former club.

Midfielder Whelan, who came off in the 0-0 draw at Liverpool with a hamstring problem which kept him out of the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualifiers against Germany and the Faroe Islands, is rated by Pulis as having a "50-50" chance of featuring at Old Trafford.

The manager has also said he expects striker Owen, missing from the Liverpool game after tweaking his groin, to only be fit enough for a place on the bench at best, but defender Andy Wilkinson is available again after completing a three-match suspension.

Source: PA

Source: PA