Manchester United target Stoke scalp

Manchester United Pogba

Manchester United have a chance to make up some ground in the Premier League title race when they welcome Stoke City to Old Trafford on Monday.

After Manchester City’s first defeat of the season against Liverpool on Sunday, United can close the gap between them and the league leaders to 12 points. The Red Devils have not lost in their last six league encounters, most recently besting Everton 2-0 to end a run of three consecutive draws with which they ended 2017.

Down at the other end of the table, and the Potters will be desperate for the points that will see them escape the relegation zone. Back-to-back defeats saw Stoke slip back into the drop zone, but a repeat of the 2-2 draw against United earlier in the season will draw them level with Southampton.

Speaking ahead of the match, United manager Jose Mourinho responded to questions about the January transfer market, saying that it was never their plan to bring in players mid-season.

"Our squad was built not to have new players in January," Mourinho said. "We built a squad with this idea, this philosophy that I share with [executive vice-chairman] Mr Woodward and the owners, that normally investment is made in the summer.

"The balance of the squad is made in the summer unless you have a dramatic situation with a crazy number of injuries and you are pushed for emergency deals. But sometimes it can happen: on the table, there's a fantastic opportunity and you fight for that opportunity.

"We like our squad, we believe in our squad – it's just about improving it in a balanced way. So if we do something now, it has to be something we really believe is the right thing to do for the team."

The match could see a Stoke debut for Moritz Bauer after joining the club from Russian side Rubin Kazan, and the Austrian full-back says "it would be a dream, like something from a movie".

"I have always wanted to challenge myself in the Premier League, just as every footballer in the world has," Bauer told his new club's official website.

"Of course, nothing is certain and if I don’t play I will still be there giving all of my support to the rest of the lads."

In team news, Mourinho revealed that Antonio Valencia is fit to return from a hamstring injury, but Anthony Martial is a doubt. Mourinho also stated that playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to feature despite rumours of an impending transfer away.

Stoke will have a late fitness test for defender Ryan Shawcross, currently suffering from a calf strain, while there are slight doubts on the fitness of Erick Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi.

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