Manchester United vs Stoke City Predicted XI: What will Mourinho change for the visit of the Potters?

Manchester United vs Stoke City Predicted XI: What will Mourinho change for the visit of the Potters?

Stoke City travel to Old Trafford tomorrow without a win in their first six league games. On paper it should be a walk in the park for a Manchester United side high in confidence - but who will start as they look for a fourth successive win in all competitions?

Alex Turk

Manchester United responded to losing three games in a week by winning three games in a week against Northampton Town, Leicester City and Zorya Luhansk.

However, Jose Mourinho isn't getting carried away and wants his team to make it four wins in a row tomorrow when Stoke City visit Old Trafford.

The Potters have conceded 15 goals already this season including leaking four against Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, so the Red Devils will be confident of securing another high-scoring victory in front of their home supporters - but who will start?

The defence

Goalkeeper - David De Gea: De Gea wasn't included in the match day squad against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday, which led to great panic seen as every United fan thought it was due to an injury. However, Mourinho acted as the bearer of good news prior to kick-off when he told BT Sport that the Spaniard was simply being rested ahead of the international break. The 26-year-old is certainly a key member of the rebuilding process that the manager has on his hands and the difference in quality between the first choice and second choice goalkeepers is substantial. With this in mind he has to start on Sunday afternoon. De Gea has only kept two clean sheets in six league games this season, which is a slight cause for concern, however several of the goals conceded were due to defensive errors, so once the back four gets settled it's likely he'll be back to his best and challenging for the Golden Glove again.

Right-back - Antonio Valencia: The Ecuadorian was also rested in mid-week like De Gea, which suggests that he'll play a part in this one seeing as though he was training fine during the week. Valencia has been turned into United's first-choice right-back under Mourinho and has definitely repaid his trust with some scintillating performances. He has also started every league game this season so it is widely expected that he'll be preferred here over Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Matteo Darmian. The latter was first-choice under Louis van Gaal last season after signing from Torino in the summer but now he's fallen down the pecking order and is the subject of interest from a few different clubs in Italy. So if Valencia continues to perform, we could see the Italian cut his United career short in January or the summer.

Centre-back - Chris Smalling: It's pretty safe to say that Smalling is the best defender at Manchester United. His pace, strength, aerial presence and leadership qualities have made him into one of the leagues past over the past couple of seasons and after starting the season on the bench because Eric Bailly and Daley Blind were playing so well together he's now cemented a place in the team. The English centre-half has been the United captain during the Rooney-free spell and it has worked well. Many Reds will believe that Smalling in the team will bring out the best in the inexperienced Bailly, as recent games have suggested. His first goal of the season came at the weekend when he started off United's impressive goal-scoring form against Leicester City. However, Demarai Gray's wonderstrike denied him a clean sheet so he will be looking to improve tomorrow.

Centre-back - Eric Bailly: There were an uncountable number of doubts surrounding the quality of Bailly when he was announced as Mourinho's first signing as United manager in June. He was always in the shadow of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, until he played. No one expected him to be great, he was always seen as one for the future, however Bailly looks like he's been playing in the league for years after being almost flawless in all six Premier League games he's played in and he is rapidly becoming a fan favourite at Old Trafford. There is always other things to consider about a player other than quality, and United will need height and physicality at the back tomorrow if they're going to be up against players like Wilfried Bony and Marco Arnautovic. The 22-year-old and Smalling were solid and comfortable as a partnership against Zorya so expect to see the same partnership against Stoke City.

Left-back - Daley Blind: This position is difficult to predict because it seems like Luke Shaw is back to full fitness now, however, seen as though Daley Blind had such an impressive game in the last league outing it'd be incredibly harsh to drop him. The most likely outcome seems to be Shaw getting a rest and then coming back into the team after the international break. There are worries about Blind having to track pacy players like Arnautovic and Bojan however he had last season's Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez in his back pocket last weekend. The Dutch international was widely expected to leave Old Trafford in the summer due to Mourinho's love for big, strong defensive players, however all tension seems to be forgotten now after Blind has impressed the manager in training and on the pitch, much to the fans' delight.

The midfield

Centre midfielder - Ander Herrera: Herrera was absolutely fanastic against Leicester City in the holding role alongside Pogba. His energy and calmness combined perfectly with the Frenchman's qualities throughout the whole of the game. The Spaniard can do just as good of a job as the likes of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger in this role and has something both of those players lack, pace, and this means he can control the game as well as upping the tempo and getting it up to Pogba quickly when needed. United dearly missed him against Zorya. The tempo was way too slow throughout the whole of the game and the Reds obviously only managed one scruffy goal to take the win so a good start is definitely needed tomorrow and Herrera can definitely help contribute to that. The midfield three of Herrera, Pogba and Mata clicked so well against the league champions, so why change it? 

Centre midfielder - Paul Pogba: After scoring his first United goal against Leicester, the world's most expensive player will be full of confidence going into a match against a team with such a vulnerable defence. Stoke City have an awful record of defending set-pieces so far this season so the likes of Pogba, Smalling and Ibrahimovic will obviously be fancying themselves to get in on the goals. It's not all about goals for Pogba if he's controlling a game with as much ease as he is doing at the moment, a pairing with Herrera sounds a bit iffy because naturally they are attacking players, but it's quickly starting to look like United have their best midfield partnership. 

Central attacking midfielder - Juan Mata: Similarly to Blind, Juan Mata was thought to be wanted out of the club by manager Mourinho in the summer because of his lack of pace and speculation was fuelled because of the fact that the Portuguese was the man who sold the Spaniard to United a few years ago. A lot has changed in just six league games, however, after Mourinho came out during the week to describe Mata as a 'very good' player at United in comparison to when he was just 'good' at Chelsea. The United boss also said that Mata was in his natual habitat playing for the Reds. If that isn't proof that Mata is a big part of Mourinho's plans this season then what is? Jesse Lingard might be selected, however it's unlikely that it'll be in the place of Mata. 

The attack

Right winger - Marcus Rashford: It doesn't matter about Rashford's age, he is simply undroppable at this moment in time because of how much he gives and contributes in every single match that he's involved in. The teenage sensation bagged himself another goal in the game against Leicester and rattled the bar against Zorya in mid-week. He always just gives that extra bit of attacking firepower in whatever game and in whatever competition his team are playing in. Rashford has scored more goals than any other Manchester United player since making his debut against FC Midtjylland in February, a record that surely makes his name one of the first on the team sheet.

Left winger - Anthony Martial: United fans should expect to see Martial back in the team tomorrow after fully recovering from a concussion suffered during the 3-1 defeat at Watford. The young Frechman returned on Thursday night as he replaced Fosu-Mensah on 80 minutes so it's looking like he will feature here. However, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan also returning and Lingard being favoured by Mourinho, there is also a possibility that Martial will start on the bench again. After being United's top goalscorer in his debut season last term, he's really struggled to find form after a disappointing European Championships but after he scores one, you can rely on him to carry on scoring.

Striker - Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Now for the easiest pick of the team. Mourinho confirmed in his Zorya pre-match press conference that because Zlatan has no international duties to worry about he can easily play both games this week and that he'll start tomorrow. The big Swedish forward has already scored six goals in his first 10 games for Manchester United and even though he lacks pace, it doesn't matter as long as he has pace around him because his sheer power and strength makes up for it. Despite not getting a goal for himself against Leicester, he had a fantastic game and contributed a lot to the win by orchestrating attacks and letting the creative players like Lingard, Rashford, Mata and Pogba play around him. 

Predicted XI: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Herrera, Pogba, Mata; Rashford, Martial, Ibrahimovic.