Football

Stoke City Vs Manchester United, Sat 24 Sep 2011

Jones to miss United visit (©PAphotos)
Jones to miss United visit (©PAphotos).

Stoke will definitely be without striker Kenwyne Jones for the Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium.

The Trinidad and Tobago international damaged a hamstring in the penalty shoot-out victory over Tottenham in the Carling Cup on Tuesday and, although the injury is not as bad as first feared, he is likely to be out until after next month's international break.

Salif Diao, Cameron Jerome and Jermaine Pennant have all been struggling with niggles this week while utility man Danny Pugh has joined Leeds on loan.

The test facing the Potters is a difficult one given United have started their season in rampant form having won their opening five Barclays Premier League games.

Manager Tony Pulis is under no illusions about the challenge facing his side, declaring United as the "best team in the world" at present.

"If you look at their team and the way they've started, I think United now have a better team than they had last year, and they won the Barclays Premier League title last year," said the Potters boss.

"It's going to be a tough test. We have to play to our maximum, we have to have things go for us, and United have to be a little bit short on the day.

"If they play to their maximum, they will beat any side in the world, and I put Barcelona in that because they have been pretty outstanding."

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted Javier Hernandez has been lucky to emerge from a wild tackle by Ashley Cole unscathed - but revealed skipper Nemanja Vidic is no nearer a comeback from his calf problem.

The Manchester United manager feared the worst when Hernandez was caught by Cole during the second half of Sunday's 3-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford.

Hernandez limped off and it appeared he was set for an extended period on the sidelines.

However, the Mexican returned to training on Thursday and is in contention for the trip to Stoke.

"Hernandez is very lucky," Ferguson said. "At the time he had no feeling in the leg. There was numbness and we thought there might have been some nerve damage.

"But he trained very well yesterday (Thursday) and is available for tomorrow."

Hernandez's return means he and Danny Welbeck will be pushing for starting slots given that the latter returned from a hamstring problem in the midweek Carling Cup success at Leeds.

Chris Smalling (groin) is a doubt, but fellow England defender Rio Ferdinand is set to return from a calf injury.

Ferguson also revealed has no intention of joining the army of critics who have followed the Stoke bandwagon since it arrived in the Premier League four seasons ago.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was particularly aggrieved when young midfielder Aaron Ramsey had his leg broken in a meeting with the Potteries outfit.

Chelsea and Liverpool have also had their struggles, as have Manchester City. Indeed, the former two have already dropped points against Tony Pulis' men this season. That form is in marked contrast to United, who have secured six straight wins since Stoke came back into the top flight.

Little wonder Ferguson is not fazed by Stoke's unique threat, not that he feels there is a problem with it anyway.

"I've never criticised it (Stoke's style of play). It's never been a problem for us. Everyone plays to their strengths. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that," he added.

"You see the progress the team is making. They have signed two or three players, they are playing European football and having a right go.

"They have a great attitude and their support is brilliant. I love the atmosphere there. If you don't attend to that you just get engulfed."

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Topics:
Jermaine Pennant
Chris Smalling
Aaron Ramsey
Ashley Cole
Danny Pugh
Football
Salif Diao
League Cup
Kenwyne Jones
Premier League
Alex
Danny Welbeck
Manchester United
Nemanja Vidic
Cameron Jerome
Javier Hernandez
Rio Ferdinand

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