Options for Stoke varied admits Fletcher ahead of Old Trafford meeting

Darren Fletcher has warned Manchester United should not be sucked in by the belief that Stoke City are just a team of long-ball merchants.

Tony Pulis's in-form Potteries outfit head to Old Trafford tonight trying to prevent their hosts making it a 20-match unbeaten start to the season.

United are one of the few sides they seem incapable of ruffling, having lost all five encounters since their return to the top flight.And the key may be the fact Sir Alex Ferguson's men are not just prepared for an aerial bombardment. They also recognise Stoke can play a bit too.

"Stoke can be physical at times," said Fletcher. "They put long throws and free-kicks into the box and are willing to go direct.

"But that is not to neglect the football players they have. Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant like to get at you and dribble. Tuncay and Ricardo Fuller are good, attacking-style players who like the ball at their feet too, so they do have options."

Ferguson will need to check on the fitness of Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Darron Gibson before finalising his United line-up, while Stoke defender Robert Huth is available again after suspension and Ricardo Fuller is looking to retain his place up front alongside Kenwyne Jones ahead of Jon Walters.

Blackpool defender Ian Evatt is convinced his side can bounce back from the defeat by Manchester City when they face Birmingham at Bloomfield Road.

Evatt claims they have good reason to be optimistic after running the Champions League contenders close on Saturday when just a single goal from Adam Johnson divided the teams.

Evatt said: "I feel so confident at the moment. I feel as though I can deal with anything. I hope it looks that way to everyone else.

"Not just me but the whole team is playing with so much confidence. I feel as though I can take on the world. That comes down to the gaffer (Ian Holloway) giving us that belief."

Moussa Dembele could finally make his Fulham comeback for the home game against West Bromwich Albion after recovering from a troublesome ankle injury.


Premier League (all 8.00): Blackpool v Birmingham, Fulham v West Brom, Man Utd v Stoke. Championship: Cardiff v Leeds (7.45). League One: Bristol Rovers v Plymouth (7.45). Blue Square Premier: Hayes & Yeading v Luton (7.45).

Scottish Cup, Third round replays: Beith v Airdrie Utd (1.00), Annan Athletic v Brechin (7.30), Threave Rovers v Stenhousemuir (7.30).