Betting: The Reds have never lost at the Britannia Stadium, and that, coupled with Stoke’s poor form, makes them favourites with United’s official betting partners bwin at 1.55. The draw is 3.90, while the odds on a home win are 6.00. Patrice Evra opened the scoring on our last visit, and the combative left-back is a tempting 34.00 get the first goal of this meeting.
Sub-plot: Wayne Rooney started the Cardiff match on the bench, but could we see a United starting XI featuring him, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata all in tandem for the first time?
The manager: Mark Hughes earned himself a place in club folklore during his two spells as a United player, and with stints in charge of Wales, Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR and now Stoke, ‘Sparky’ is one of the most experienced top-flight managers around.
Star man: Stephen Ireland flowered under Hughes’ tutelage at City, and after impressing on loan from Aston Villa, the midfielder earned himself a permanent deal in the January transfer window. Whether he can regain his form from his first stint with Sparky remains to be seen, but on his day the Irishman has the potential to unlock any defence.