When Mark Hughes was named as the new Stoke City manager in the summer, there was a mixture of opinions among Potters fans that had been so used to the physical style of play under Tony Pulis.

A section of the support were worried about what Hughes could bring to the club following unsuccessful stints at Manchester City and QPR, while others appeared excited about the change of approach he would bring to the side after so many years of being labeled a team that only plays one style.

And Hughes appears to have done just that as we’ve seen a completely different Stoke City already this season, playing fluid, passing football and actually offering some enjoyable football to watch at times. This has been obvious in both the league and this season’s Capital One Cup – which he will have marked as the chance of some silverware for his resurgent Potters side.

And Stoke’s development under Hughes’ was evident in their narrow 3-2 Premier League defeat to Manchester United in October when they twice threw away the lead at Old Trafford. It was such a performance that it proved that Stoke are taking big strides towards shaking off their reputation as a long ball team and are ready to start competing with a more attractive style of football in the Premier League.

Now they welcome United to the Britannia Stadium in Round 5 of the Capital One Cup not only looking to avenge that defeat at Old Trafford but also to record their first win over the Red Devils­ since a League Cup meeting in 1993.

And a victory isn’t completely out of the question for the Potters when you consider Manchester United’s start to the season under new boss David Moyes. They may have notched their football up a gear in recent weeks, but some of their results highlight a number of weaknesses that Hughes and Stoke will be keen to exploit.

It is in the midfield, for example, that United have lacked any real bite since the beginning of the season. Even the arrival of Marouane Fellaini from Everton hasn’t given Moyes’ side much to shout about in the middle of the park. They have improved in that area of the pitch in recent weeks, although Stoke’s tall and battling engine room arguably had the upper hand at Old Trafford and will be important to their chances of victory.

The likes of Steven N’Zonzi and Marco Arnoutivic enjoyed lots of time on the ball and freedom to be creative in their last meeting and, with Stoke being at home this time, we can expect more of the same.

That said, with United improving with every game they play at the moment, the Potters will certainly need to be at the very top of their game to book their place in the semi-finals. The pressure to win a trophy in his first season at Old Trafford will be weighing down on Moyes’ shoulders and, if Hughes can motivate his players to frustrate United, close down quickly and attack with pace then he may just be able defuse the Red Devils.

Of course, with Wayne Rooney enjoying his football at United again, he’s going to be Stoke’s biggest worry at the back, but just as long as they continue to follow Hughes’ style of play and keep up their good performances, they could have every chance of an upset at the Britannia.

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