Three reasons Man Utd suffered most in the PL this weekend

Saturday saw Manchester United held to their third 0-0 draw at home in the Premier League this season, as West Brom became the eighth team to leave Old Trafford with a point to further damage the Red Devils’ top four hopes.

Jose Mourinho’s side have only managed to win 40% of their home games in the top flight this season and wins for Spurs and Liverpool on Saturday mean that the challenge of securing a top four spot just got a whole lot tougher.

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Yes, Chelsea lost at home to Crystal Palace. That was a shock result and one that many will say was worse – on paper at least – than United’s home draw with the Baggies. But the difference is that the Blues had a 10-point cushion at the top of the table. They can afford to drop a few points and still lift the title. United can’t if they want to beat rivals to a Champions League spot.

Here are three reasons Manchester United were this weekend’s biggest losers:

1. Widening gap to top four

The biggest problem for United this weekend is that the gap to the top four widened by a point, following Liverpool’s Merseyside Derby win over Everton earlier in the day. Mourinho’s side were four points off Liverpool with two games in hand heading into the weekend, but not sit 5 points off Manchester City in 4th, who have only played one game more than United.

2. Easiest fixture of the month?

Man Utd will have played a staggering nine times before the end of April, with an average of a game every three days in the Premier League and Europa League leaving Mourinho with the most frantic period of his season. He will have to rotate his squad more than ever over the next four weeks but he’d had the entire international break to plan a victory over West Brom. He couldn’t do that and will now only have a couple of days to spend on preparations for each upcoming game in April.

3. Short rest time

As mentioned above, United’s hectic schedule means Mourinho will need to manage his players extremely well if they’re to emerge out of this month in good shape. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be available again for Tuesday’s home clash with Everton after serving his suspension but the 0-0 draw to the Baggies on Saturday meant the United boss had to leave his best players on the pitch for 90 minutes. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the only played substituted but still had to get through 75 minutes first. The fact that Mourinho was unable to bring players off to save them for Tuesday might cost them when Everton come to town tomorrow evening.

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What does Ibrahimovic’s three-game ban mean for Manchester United?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Manchester United have today been handed a potentially major blow to their top four hopes, following the FA’s decision to hand the striker a three-game ban for an elbow on Tyrone Mings during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.

Ibrahimovic is facing the suspension for an elbow on Mings late in the first half of Saturday’s game. The Bournemouth defender is facing an even lengthier ban for a stamp on the United star a minute earlier, which prompted the aggressive response from Ibrahimovic.

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Both players have until Tuesday evening to respond to the charges, but there is very little chance of that, with both now facing at least three games out for violent conduct.

Ibrahimovic will miss next Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, followed by Premier League games against Middlesbrough on March 19 and West Brom on April 1. However, the Swedish forward would still be available for Europa League matches in that time. United face Russian side FC Rostov away this Thursday, before the return leg at Old Trafford next week.

No United player has made more appearances this season than the age-defying Ibrahimovic, who has scored 26 goals in his debut season in English football. He has proven his doubters wrong by inspiring Jose Mourinho’s side over the course of the season and his absence could prove to be hugely costly come the end of the season.

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United are still stuck in sixth place in the Premier League, but are just three points off Liverpool in fourth, with a game in hand too. They will expect to take six points from the upcoming league fixtures against Middlesbrough and West Brom, but the loss of Ibrahimovic could throw their chances into doubt.

The frontman has scored or assisted almost half of United’s goals in the top flight this season, which highlights exactly how influential he’s been for the Red Devils.

United are unbeaten in 17 Premier League games and it’s no coincidence that Ibrahimovic has hit form during that time, scoring 11 of his 15 league goals during that stretch.He’s only missed five games in total so far this term, but none of those have been away from home. The only league game he missed saw United draw 1-1 at home to Arsenal.

It’s been over a year since Anthony Martial started a game up front, while Wayne Rooney’s days as an out-and-out striker appear to have ended a long time ago. That means Mourinho will more than likely look to Marcus Rashford in the upcoming games that Ibrahimovic will miss.

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Rashford has only scored three league goals so far this season, although he has only been handed 10 starts, coming off the bench in 11 more and often out on the left-wing.

United have not only lost their best goalscorer in Ibrahimovic, but also the man who links midfield to attack with his world-class hold up play.

As it stands, United are still in three competitions and only three points off the top four. If they are in the same – or an even better position – this time next month, then they’ll have done remarkably well without this year’s talisman.

How do you think Manchester United will cope without Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Does he deserve a three-game ban?

United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, January 15 – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Man Utd 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – Liverpool 13/5

Match Preview

Manchester United face Liverpool for the 50th time in the Premier League on Sunday in what is undoubtedly the weekend’s biggest game.

United are looking as strong as they have done for several years at the moment, having won nine games in a row in all competitions. Six of them have come in the Premier League and Jose Mourinho will be delighted with the progress being made.

The only concern for the Red Devils is that their Premier League rivals are all winning too, so they still find themselves in sixth place ahead of this weekend’s schedule.

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Liverpool enter the weekend in second, only five points higher than United, so this is a huge chance for the home side to close the gap and keep their winning run going.

Jurgen Klopp’s men had a strong festive period themselves but have been disappointing in their last three games in all competitions.

A 2-2 draw at Sunderland was followed by a 0-0 FA Cup draw against Plymouth last weekend. Before the Reds then fell 1-0 at Southampton in the first leg of their EFL Cup semifinal on Wednesday night.

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Sadio Mane is not available as a result of Africa Cup of Nations commitments with Senegal, although Philippe Coutinho has returned from injury, so Klopp needs to ensure he gets his team selection spot on for Sunday’s game.

The reverse fixture at Anfield ended 0-0 back in October but these sides have not drawn a league game at Old Trafford for 17 years, so it looks likely that someone will emerge victorious in what is a vital game at the top end of the table.

Team News

Jose Mourinho will be without Eric Bailly for the next few weeks as the defender has flown out to play for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations. Marcos Rojo is a doubt after picking up an injury in last week’s FA Cup game against Reading. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the midweek clash with Hull because of illness but should return in time for this huge match.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be without Sadio Mane for the rest of the month at least as he is with the Senegal squad for AFCON 2017. Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Marko Grujic are all doubts, while Danny Ings and Mamadou Sakho remain out.

Key Points

Man Utd’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: This will be the 50th Premier League clash between these long-standing rivals. Manchester United have won 27 of the previous 49 games.

Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – The United striker should be passed fit to play and the home side need him as he has been in incredible form since moving to the Premier League last summer. He has 13 goals in his first 19 league games this term and has found the net in nine of his last nine PL matches.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool – Both sides will fancy their chances here, as both are so dangerous going forward, but United look stronger at the minute and Liverpool have looked vulnerable since the turn of the year. The loss of Mane could prove to be a factor as the home side look poised to seal a narrow, but important victory on Sunday.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: West Brom vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United

Venue: The Hawthorns – Saturday, December 17 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET) 

Match Odds: West Brom 4/1 – Draw 13/5 – Man United 7/10

Match Preview

West Brom welcome Manchester United to The Hawthorns on Saturday evening as sixth face seventh in the Premier League.

The Baggies are in good form, with last weekend’s loss at Chelsea their only defeat in six league games. They bounced straight back with a 3-1 win over Swansea and look good value for their league position, sitting just four points behind United.

Tony Pulis will ensure his team are tough to break down against a strong United team here, and they can take confidence from the fact they’ve won their last three home games on the spin.

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For Manchester United, this represents another stern test in their final game before Christmas. Jose Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in seven and have won back-to-back league games for the first time since August.

They followed up last Sunday’s 1-0 win over Spurs with a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening. That should ensure they travel to The Hawthorns in good spirits on Saturday.

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Mourinho’s men haven’t reached the levels expected of them so far this season but a win here would start to give supporters plenty of confidence at a crucial stage of the campaign.

West Brom beat United in their most recent meeting in March, with a Salomon Rondon goal enough to earn the Baggies three points. They’ve now beaten United in three of their last six meetings.

Team News

West Brom remain without Saido Berahino and Boaz Myhill, while former United defender Jonny Evans is a doubt after missing the midweek win over Swansea.

Manchester United are expected to be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan again here, with the Armenian winger not expected back until Boxing Day. Chris Smalling remains out, while Eric Bailly is expected to miss this trip after leaving the game at Palace with another injury problem. Luke Shaw is a doubt, as is Anthony Martial, who missed the game in midweek.

Key Points

West Brom’s last five: W/D/W/L/W

Manchester United’s last five: D/D/D/W/W

Key Stat: West Brom have won their last three home games, scoring 10 goals in those victories.

Key Player: Salomon Rondon – The Baggies striker netted a hat-trick on Wednesday night, becoming just the second player in Premier League history to score three headed goals in one game. He now has seven league goals this season and will be looking to guide West Brom to another win here.

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Score Prediction

West Brom 1-1 Man United – This is expected to be a tight contest between two sides that will be desperate to earn another impressive win in the final game before Christmas. West Brom have been scoring for fun at home and will threaten the United defence here, although Jose Mourinho’s men look to be finding form and will be tough to beat here. Score draw.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, December 11 – 14:15 GMT (09:15 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Spurs 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday in the standout fixture of the Premier League action this weekend.

United know they’ve got a game on their hands with the visit of Spurs, this meeting usually offers an exciting tie, but given recent league form for United a draw would be far from surprising.

Jose Mourinho’s side are frustrating their fans. They’re creating well in games but are missing hatfuls of chances and aren’t strong enough defensively to hold out when they take the lead.

Despite the negatives, United are unbeaten in five in the league (W1, D4). Their draw last weekend at Everton was a disappointing result considering they looked to have the points wrapped up, but it’s another game unbeaten nonetheless.

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Tottenham will be full of confidence coming into this game. They thumped Swansea 5-0 at home last weekend and it could and probably should have been nearer double figures.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are six points ahead of United in the league. They sit 5th, three points outside the top four and six points off top spot, they’re well in the mix.

Spurs need to win this game to keep pace with the top four. If results go in their favour they could end the weekend in third place.

The North London side have lost just once in their last 14 outings. They’re in fine form and are scoring freely, so they have to start with their usual high-press and intensity to put United on the back-foot from the word go.

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Team News

Manchester united are still expecting to be without Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for this tie. Eric Bailly could be in line to start his first Premier League game in six weeks, he played 90 minutes in the Europa League in midweek. Wayne Rooney is available again after serving his one-match suspension.

Tottenham have just three injury concerns ahead of this tie. Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen are both expected to remain out, while Ben Davies is a doubt. Toby Alderweireld could make his first Premier League start since October 15 after he featured in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: D/W/D/D/D

Tottenham’s last five: D/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won just once in their last nine Premier League games.

Key Player: Harry Kane – The Spurs talisman is in fine form. He has netted seven league goals this season and will be excited at the prospect of getting at a nervy United defence. He will have to outshine Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure Spurs take all three points here.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur – United to fall to another unfavourable result against one of the top sides in the league. Spurs know they have the chance of taking all three points at Old Trafford, but just because United are out of form by no means makes this an easy tie.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: West Ham United vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – West Ham United vs. Arsenal

Venue: London Stadium – Saturday, December 3 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET) 

Match Odds: West Ham 4/1 – Draw 16/5 – Arsenal 4/6

Match Preview

West Ham host Arsenal at the London Stadium on Saturday evening in the first ever Premier League London derby at the Hammers’ new ground.

Both sides were in EFL Cup action in midweek and both were dumped out of the competition – West Ham losing 4-1 away at Man United, while Arsenal suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Southampton.

But attentions now turn back to Premier League action and this is an important game for the Hammers who need to gain confidence – winning a big game like this could give them the lift they need.

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Slaven Bilic’s side are just one point and two places above the drop zone after 13 games, following a disappointing start to the season, although the move to a new ground could be seen as a major reason for struggling.

West Ham recorded two consecutive wins in October, but have since gone on a run of four league games without victory (D2, L2), although they have stemmed the flow of defeats, losing just two of their last seven (W2, D3).

Arsenal returned to winning ways with a 3-1 success in a tricky game at home to Bournemouth last weekend and while they’ll be disappointed to lose in the EFL Cup in midweek, it was never a priority this season.

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The Gunners are still yet to lose a league game since the opening day defeat to Liverpool (W8, D4) and will come into this game as favourites, given their opponents’ inconsistency.

Arsene Wenger’s side are also undefeated away from home in all competitions this season, so they’ll be hoping to continue their impressive run to keep in touch with the front-runners.

The last meeting between these two sides was a thrilling 3-3 draw at Upton Park back in April. West Ham have only beaten Arsenal once in their last 16 attempts in the league (D3, L12), although that did come at the Emirates last season when they won 2-0.

Team News

West Ham will be without Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio after both suffered groin injuries in midweek. Diafra Sakho (thigh) and Sam Byram (hamstring) are also out, while Andy Carroll and Arthur Masuaku could return to the squad.

Arsenal’s familiar problem with injuries is no different this season. They will be without Mathieu Debuchy after he suffered a hamstring injury last weekend, while Olivier Giroud (groin) is a doubt. Santi Cazorla has undergone ankle surgery and will be sidelined for a further three months. Hector Bellerin (ankle) remains out, while Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (both knee) are long-term absentees. Mohamed Elneny was taken off early in midweek, reportedly suffering with illness, but will hope to be fit for action this weekend.

Key Points

West Ham’s last five: W/L/D/L/D

Arsenal’s last five: D/W/D/D/W

Key Stat: The Gunners are unbeaten in eight league visits to West Ham (W6, D2).

Key Player: Alexis Sanchez – The Chilean doesn’t even seem to need to play well to produce results. He didn’t have his greatest game last weekend, yet he still netted twice and proved to be the difference for Arsenal. That’s the sign of a world-class player. His work ethic is above anyone’s and he could be crucial once again.

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Score Prediction

West Ham 1-2 Arsenal – This is always a tough game to call. But Arsenal will sense an opportunity as Man City and Chelsea play each other, so there is a chance to make up some ground on at least one of them. The Hammers are still struggling to find their feet at the London Stadium and they could be exposed again if the Gunners perform how we all know they can on their day.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Arsenal

Venue: Old Trafford – Saturday, November 19 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Man United 6/4 – Draw 23/10 – Arsenal 9/5

Match Preview

Manchester United host Arsenal as the Premier League springs back into life in emphatic style following the latest international break.

Both sides will be looking to climb the table when they meet on Saturday, with Arsenal two points off the top in fourth and United six points further back in sixth place.

It’s a huge game on the pitch, but the battle in the dugout between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger will be sure to draw attention throughout. The long-time enemies will face off in this fixture for the first time since Mourinho moved to Manchester here and it’s expected to be as tense as ever.

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Wenger has still never beaten Mourinho in a Premier League game, but the visitors will be confident given United’s stuttering form so far this season.

The Red Devils won 3-1 at Swansea two weeks ago, ending a four-game winless run in the Premier League, but they still have a lot to work on if they are to finish the season in the top four, let alone challenge for the title.

Injuries and suspensions have left Mourinho short of options ahead of such a crucial game but he will have to trust some of his fringe players to step up and deliver, as they did in Swansea before the international break.

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For Arsenal, this is a huge game. They haven’t won a league game at Old Trafford in ten seasons but come into Saturday’s game with a very strong chance of getting three all three points.

Wenger has some injuries of his own to worry about but they are unbeaten since the opening day and have won each of their last four away games in the top flight.

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Their 1-1 draw against North London rivals Tottenham two weeks ago raised some concerns but they know they have the quality to beat anyone on their day, and this should be a thrilling clash as a result.

United beat Arsenal 3-2 back in February in the most recent meeting between the two. A lot has changed since though, most notably in the dugout, and so this is sure to be a fascinating contest.

Team News

Manchester United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who misses out through suspension. Wayne Rooney is unlikely to deputise after off-field controversies have surrounded him this week, so Marcus Rashford is set to start up top. Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling are all sidelined through injury, while Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini are doubts.

Arsenal have been dealt a blow as Hector Bellerin will be out for the next four weeks, while fellow defender Per Mertesacker remains out. Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez and Chuba Akpom are also out, while Alexis Sanchez is a doubt after picking up a knock on international duty. Mesut Ozil will be fresh after being given two weeks off to rest by German head coach Joachim Low.

Key Points

Man United’s last five: D/D/L/D/W

Arsenal’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

Key Stat: Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League game against Arsenal in 11 previous contests, winning five and drawing six of those.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German playmaker will be one of the freshest on the field after being given time to rest during the international break. Regardless of that, he is one of the league’s most talented players and will look to break down a weakened Arsenal backline here. He scored at Old Trafford in February and will be hoping to put in a commanding performance on Saturday.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal – There is very little to separate these two sides ahead of such a big game. Mourinho has the edge over Wenger but there isn’t much to split the two teams on the field, with injuries likely to affect both as equally as the other. An excellent game is expected but ultimately, this one looks likely to end in a draw, which won’t do either side too many favours.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Stoke

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Stoke City

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, October 2 – 12:00 BST (07:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Man Utd 1/3 – Draw 4/1 – Stoke 8/1

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Stoke to Old Trafford in Sunday’s early Premier League kickoff, with the Red Devils looking to build on last weekend’s huge win over Leicester against a struggling Stoke side.

Jose Mourinho’s men overcame a terrible week to beat Leicester 4-1 last time out and then followed it up with a 1-0 home win over FC Zorya in the Europa League on Thursday.

They are heavy favourites for Sunday’s contest and should prove too strong for a Stoke side that has yet to win this term.

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United are six points off leaders Manchester City going into the weekend and need to close that gap to three before their rivals kick off at Spurs later on Sunday.

For Stoke, things are looking very worrying. They have failed to win any of their six league games so far and now have to try and win at a ground they haven’t won at since 1976.

Mark Hughes is a man under pressure. His side aren’t performing anywhere near well enough and will be disappointed to have conceded in the last minute of last weekend’s 1-1 draw with West Brom.

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Stoke are 19th in the table and looking like relegation candidates at this early stage. Sunday’s game will be a real test but they need to show they are willing to fight for their manager if they are to take anything from the match.

United won 3-0 in the corresponding fixture last season but have not managed to complete a league double over the Potters since 2013.

Team News

Jose Mourinho is set to be without Luke Shaw again, with the left-back struggling with illness. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still out of the first-team picture and won’t make the squad. There will be plenty of focus on Wayne Rooney’s position again, with a place on the bench most likely. Though he did come on to assist the only goal in Thursday’s win over FC Zorya, giving Mourinho a bit of a headache.

Stoke have three players ruled out here, with Stephen Ireland, Ibrahim Afellay and Jack Butland all sidelined. Jakob Haugaard is a doubt and is unlikely to feature. On-loan City forward Wilfried Bony will lead the Potters’ attack.

Key Points

Man United’s last five: W/W/L/L/W

Stoke’s last five: L/L/L/L/D

Key Stat: Manchester United are unbeaten at home to Stoke in 16 games in all competitions, winning their last 13 in a row in front of their own fans.

Key Player: Paul Pogba – The world’s most expensive player finally got his first goal last weekend and will now be looking to kick on with another impressive display against a struggling Stoke side here. If he can find space, Pogba will undoubtedly control the game from midfield for the home side.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City – Unfortunately for Stoke, their troubles don’t look set to improve on Sunday, with the home side heavily expected to seal all three points. United impressed against Leicester last time out and will now be looking to put in an equally impressive showing against a struggling Potters team. It should be a fairly comfortable home victory.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Leicester

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Leicester City

Venue: Old Trafford – Saturday, September 24 – 12:30 BST (07:30 ET) 

Match Odds: Man Utd 4/6 – Draw 29/10 – Leicester 4/1

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Leicester to Old Trafford is this weekend’s Premier League opener, with plenty at stake for two sides that need to climb the table.

We may only be six weeks into the new season but United are already under pressure after losing their last two league games on the bounce. While reigning champions Leicester need to pick up after a really inconsistent start.

Jose Mourinho watched his side lose three games on the spin before Wednesday’s EFL Cup win over Northampton. He needs to get more out of his expensive side and Saturday’s clash with Leicester offers a stiff test for the players.

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The home fans will be expecting a win here. But given their sluggish displays of late, that’s far from a formality. They are unbeaten in seven home league games against the Foxes and that record needs to continue past this weekend for Mourinho to alleviate some pressure.

Leicester travel to Old Trafford off the back of Tuesday night’s EFL Cup defeat to Chelsea in extra-time. Claudio Ranieri will hope fatigue doesn’t affect his side too much in what is a huge game for the champions.

With only two wins from their first five, Leicester need to pick up quickly if they are to challenge at the top end of the table for the second year running. They enter the weekend in the bottom half but a win here would be a huge boost.

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New striker Islam Slimani bagged a brace in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Burnley and his partnership with Jamie Vardy could cause the United defence a number of problems here.

Leicester are looking to win at Old Trafford for the first time since 1998 and given the home side’s recent struggles, that looks more than possible.

Team News

Manchester United have doubts hanging over Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of the game, with Bastian Schweinsteiger still well outside the first-team picture. Wayne Rooney is under pressure over recent performances but may still retain his place in midfield alongside Paul Pogba. Juan Mata will be hoping to force his way back into the starting lineup, given the fact United have won all three games in which he’s started this term.

Leicester’s only injury concern ahead of Saturday’s game is summer signing Nampalys Mendy, who remains sidelined through injury. But the bigger issue for Claudio Ranieri will be how he rotates his side after having to play 120 minutes against Chelsea on Tuesday. Shinji Okazaki scored a brace in that loss but Islam Slimani is expected to come back in to partner Jamie Vardy in attack.

Key Points

Man United’s last five: W/W/W/L/L

Leicester’s last five: L/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: Jose Mourinho has now beaten a Claudio Ranieri side in his last four attempts, losing two and drawing two of his last four clashes against the Italian.

Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – The big United striker has hit a bit of a dry spell over the past couple of weeks, failing to score in any of his last three games. A home tie against Leicester gives him a great chance to end that run and he will be expected to cause Wes Morgan and Robert Huth plenty of problems.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-1 Leicester – This is set to be an intriguing battle between two sides that need to start winning games consistently. The pressure is certainly on United to deliver here but Leicester are a tough unit to break down and will be in good spirits after their 3-0 win over Burnley last time out. Goals are expected but ultimately, these look set to play out a draw at Old Trafford on Saturday.