Pulis relishing united visit

Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 by PA

Stoke manager Tony Pulis admits a date with Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium is the stuff of dreams.

The Potters have made a decent start to their second season in the top flight and have a home record that is the envy of many.

And the Welsh boss, while respectful of United, expects his side to continue in positive mode against the Barclays Premier League champions on Saturday.

Strikers Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie are both doubtful for the match.

Fuller suffered a groin problem in the Carling Cup victory over Blackpool while Beattie is struggling with a recurrence of an ankle injury.

But Pulis said: "We surprised a lot of teams last year and they will give us a lot more credence now. That has made it much more difficult in many ways.

"We have made improvements but there is no way in a million years we will get carried away.

"You look at United's history all the way through from 1958. The club is steeped in tradition.

"We will enjoy the game against them as we had been out of the top flight for 30-odd years. To have an opportunity to bring United here is first class.

"We will show them respect but once whistle goes we will give it a go. You have always got a chance.

"United will be fully aware of what we can do and how much of an effect our supporters have on the game."

Stoke ran Premier League leaders Chelsea close last month before losing to a late goal from Florent Malouda.

Pulis is looking for a change of luck and is eager to get his own back on United, who took the spoils at the ground on Boxing Day.

He said: "Chelsea played their strongest team against us and we gave them a good game. So we are hoping for the same against United.

"They are a team that has a special feel about it. Good sides still win games even when they are not playing well.

"We are now playing with a bit of form and while it is a great game it will be tough."

Ben Foster will start in goal for Manchester United after being given a public vote of confidence by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Tomasz Kuszczak had been hoping to get the nod after keeping a clean sheet against Wolves in midweek but Foster will return as deputy for Edwin van der Sar (broken fingers), who is out for another three weeks.

Plenty of changes are anticipated from midweek, with Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra among those certain to be recalled.

Ahead of the encounter at the Britannia Stadium, Ferguson also revealed Owen Hargreaves could be back playing in four weeks.

The Manchester United midfielder has been out of action for a year after deciding to undergo operations on both knees in an effort to solve his tendinitis problems.

Hargreaves has done all his rehabilitation work in the United States so far under the guidance of renowned knee surgeon Dr Richard Steadman.

However, the former Bayern Munich star returned to United's Carrington training complex earlier this week to take the next major step in his bid for recovery.

Hargreaves has not done any ball work yet and Ferguson does not expect him to for a short while as the United medical staff complete a handover that will take the 28-year-old back into their care.

But the United boss is optimistic that, if all goes to plan, Hargreaves could be back in a United shirt at some point next month.

"I feel it will still take us four weeks to get him into the rhythm of training again and get to the point of match play," said Ferguson.

"Normally, when a player has been out for that length of time he is helped by the fact he is doing his rehabilitation with other players.

"Because he did it on his own in the USA, under the guidance of Dr Richard Steadman, it is not easy.

"But he has the determination and resilience to see it through. He is now back with us and hopefully the boy gets a break and continues his progress without any further mishaps."

As this kind of operation is still quite rare, there must be some doubt over Hargreaves' chances of making a full recovery, or getting back to the level that saw him win 42 caps for England, the last of which came against the USA in May last year.

But Ferguson takes comfort from the growing number of players that have come back from formerly career-threatening cruciate knee ligament surgery, the latest being Chelsea's Joe Cole.

"We don't see the fact he has been out a year as a handicap," said Ferguson.

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