Wednesday 22 November 2017

Evans expects 'hard but fair' Stoke at Old Trafford

Manchester United defender Jonny Evans feels it is wrong to label Stoke the big and dirty bruisers of the Premier League.

Tony Pulis's men have been stereotyped as an uncompromising bunch, who have achieved their present status through brawn rather than brain. However, United boss Alex Ferguson does not believe that perception is accurate.

And, ahead of tonight's Old Trafford meeting, neither does Evans.

"Nobody ever looks forward to playing against Stoke," the Northern Ireland defender said.

"People have this preconception of them and think that because they're a big side they're a dirty side.

"But that's not the case at all. They are hard but fair and Tony Pulis goes out of his way to make sure they do not cross that line."

United have a decent record against the Potteries outfit, not losing to them on home soil since 1976.

And the weekend FA Cup setback at Anfield 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 cup competition 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.

"From the middle of January until we go to Tottenham, it looked quite a daunting programme," said Ferguson.

"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.

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