Manchester United have started the season in sparkling form, winning all three matches without conceding a goal and scoring 10 times along the way to surge to the top of the Premier League table.
The Reds are the only team with a 100 per cent record but on Saturday they face arguably their toughest task of the campaign to date and a trip to a stadium that has not been a happy hunting ground in recent years.
Here, we look at why Stoke could ruin United’s perfect start to the season.
Stoke are unbeaten at home against United in four matches, winning two of them. They team came within seconds of making it back-to-back home wins against the Reds last season only for a stoppage-time free-kick from Wayne Rooney to salvage a 1-1 draw for Jose Mourinho’s men. In fact, United have won only one of their last six Premier League visits to the Potteries – a 2-0 success in April 2013 just weeks before Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The Mark Hughes factor
Stoke’s unbeaten home run against United has coincided with Hughes’ appointment as manager in the summer of 2013. A player of some repute during his playing days at Old Trafford, where he spent 13 years over two spells, Hughes is familiar than most with the Reds. The Welshman has transformed Stoke from notorious defensive spoilers and long ball merchants into a team in his own image, adding flair to its attack while at the same time maintaining that dogged stability at the back that was synonymous with former manager Tony Pulis.
United old boys
Hughes is not the only ex-Red in the Stoke ranks. There are three others who will be looking to get one over on their old club with centre-back Ryan Shawcross, midfielder Darren Fletcher and striker Mame Biram Diouf forming a solid spine to the Stoke side. Stoke are a team who give it 100 per cent all the time anyway but that extra added spice might make it even more of a testing evening for United.
Attack, attack, attack
The recent addition of Jese Rodriguez on loan from PSG has give Stoke an extra dimension to their attack. The former Real Madrid striker marked his debut with a clinical finish against Arsenal and compliments perfectly the guile of Xherdan Shaqiri and power of fellow new arrival Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Throw Diouf into the mix with Joe Allen providing the ammunition from midfield and Stoke easily pose the biggest test to United’s, so far, perfect defensive record.