Jonny, what’s it like to play against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium?
I’ve only played there once for United, back in 2008, after we came back from the Club World Cup in Japan. I just remember the atmosphere being unbelievable. Their fans definitely get behind their team and that, combined with the way Stoke play, puts you under a lot of pressure. They play a lot of high balls and they’re a very physical team. It’s often very windy there as well, which can make life difficult for a defender.
Do you approach games against Stoke any differently?
We feel prepared for Stoke, definitely. Our last away game was against Bolton and they’re quite similar in that they also play a lot of high balls into the box. We did well against Bolton, though, so I’m confident we can take parts of that game-plan into this weekend.
Do you enjoy these physical games?
Playing teams like Stoke and Bolton definitely takes a lot more out of you. As a defender you’re having to sprint a lot as they play a lot of balls down the channels and you have to chase them and then get back out to take up your defensive line. You’re also jumping a lot to head long balls. You find yourself involved in the game a lot more than when you play against sides that adopt a more continental approach and try and keep the ball on the ground. It’s more demanding for a defender and I think you also have to be clever when you play physical teams – you have to be careful not to be sucked into the physical battles around the pitch.