Fletcher warns United against Stoke skills

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Darren Fletcher has warned Manchester United should not be sucked in by the belief Stoke are just a team of long-ball merchants.

Tony Pulis' in-form Potteries outfit head to Old Trafford on Tuesday trying to prevent their hosts making it a 20-match unbeaten start to the season and United are one of the few sides they seem incapable of ruffling, having lost all five encounters since their return to the top flight.

"Stoke can be physical at times," said the Scotland skipper. "They put long throws and free-kicks into the box and are willing to go direct."

He added: "But that is not to neglect the football players they have. Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant like to get at you and dribble.

"Tuncay and Ricardo Fuller are good, attacking-style players who like the ball at their feet too, so they do have options and can cause problems on the ground."

On their past two trips to Old Trafford, Stoke have conceded nine goals, without scoring once.

Indeed, a secret weapon in combating Rory Delap's long throws has been established.

Without being aware of it, the slope that surrounds the perimeter of Old Trafford prevents Delap launching his bombs in quite the same way, reducing the effectiveness of that particular avenue of Stoke attack.

"Against Stoke, some teams would rather defend the corner than the throw-in," admitted Fletcher. "But the slope at Old Trafford stops them building up momentum. The pitch is bigger as well so maybe they can't get the throws quite as far into the box.

"It is still a danger but we prepare for it. We do our homework and try to manage it the best way we can."

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Premier League
Manchester United
Darren Fletcher

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