TT Epaper
The Telegraph
TT Photogallery
 
CIMA Gallary

Rooney-Robin pair give United edge

- Sunderland seeking a league double over Newcastle
Juan Mata during a practice session, on Friday. (Getty Images)

London: Manchester United, boosted by the arrival of 37.1 million club record signing Juan Mata, who had a fine debut in the 2-0 win over basement club Cardiff City on Tuesday, face another old favourite in the Premier League on Saturday.

They make the short trip to Stoke City, managed by ex-United striker Mark Hughes, for the second time in five weeks after winning a League Cup quarter final there 2-0 last month.

Stoke badly need a win after no victories in eight league matches, a run which has seen them slip from 10th to 16th in the last month, while seventh-placed United need to close the gap on the top four.

With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney back from injury, there is plenty of room for optimism around Old Trafford.

The return of Van Persie has arguably been as big a boost as the Mata signing, as his early strike against Cardiff proved. With five goals in his last six Premier League appearances, and nine in his last eight against Stoke, the Dutch striker will be eyeing more goals on Saturday.

Rooney made his return from a groin problem, which has kept him out of New Years’ Day on Tuesday night as he replaced Van Persie on the hour-mark and is in line to start against Stoke.

Stoke are in a poor run of form. Defeat against United will be the first time Stoke have lost four league games in a row since February 2012.

However, defeat against Liverpool in their last home match was Stoke’s first home defeat in eight league games, so all is not lost.

Hughes’ men were beaten by fellow struggles Sunderland on Wednesday despite enjoying most of the play and they will have to be much more efficient and clinical against United.

However, securing victory over United is easier said than done Stoke have not beaten the 20-time champions in the league since 1984.

Moyes has twice this season masterminded victories over Stoke, a 3-2 win in the league and 2-0 win in the League Cup quarter final at the Britannia Stadium.

The weekend kicks off with the always fiercely passionate north-east Derby between Newcastle United and Sunderland, who are looking to complete a league double over Newcastle for the first time since 1966-67.

Sunderland’s results have steadily improved since Gus Poyet became manager in October culminating in their Capital One semi-final success over United last week which has set them up for a Wembley date with Manchester City in March.

Everton will be looking for a quick return to form against erratic Aston Villa, but will have to look elsewhere for goals following top scorer Romelu Lukaku’s injury.

Fixtures

Saturday: Newcastle vs Sunderland; West Ham vs Swansea; Cardiff vs Norwich; Everton vs Aston Villa; Fulham v Southampton; Hull vs Tottenham; Stoke vs United

Sunday: West Brom vs Liverpool; Arsenal vs Palace

Monday: City vs Chelsea