United have won seven of their last nine??league matches ahead of their trip to the Britannia Stadium on New Year’s Day.
That run has seen Louis Van Gaal’s side climb to third and Hughes, who played 467??times for United, believes the Dutchman is starting to make his mark at Old??Trafford.
“I think they are title contenders, they may have given themselves too much to??do – they’re 10 points back at the moment and there are very strong teams ahead??of them,” Hughes said.
“They’re coming into a run of form now which will encourage them and that’s??what they need to do, they can’t afford to have too many more slip ups.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to overcome them and that will be four defeats -??historically you can’t afford more than six to seven. If you have that many??defeats it’s almost impossible to win the Premier League.
“They’ll be aware of that but they have the players to go on an extended run??as they’re doing at the moment.”
Hughes added that Van Gaal was growing into the role and becoming a “figurehead” for the club.
Despite United’s excellent run of results, their performances have not always??been convincing and Hughes believes Van Gaal is still working out his best team??and style of play.
“Van Gaal seems to talk about his philosophy a lot and any philosophy you have??as a manager takes time to instil.”
Consecutive wins over Everton and West Brom have pushed Stoke up to 11th in the??table, six points behind sixth place.
Hughes is delighted with the Potters’ progress and wants to add United to an??impressive list of scalps this season that already includes Manchester City,??Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton.
“2014 has been great for us – I think we’ve picked up more points in the??calendar year than any other Stoke team in the Premier League,” Hughes said.
“But United are a good team, it’s up to us to ask questions of them.
“Our record against the top teams has been good and they’ll know they will be??in for a tough game.
“It’s a difficult place to come if you’re a top team and we need to make sure??that continues.”