English Premiership

Stoke will be hard game: Fergie

2013-04-13 10:39
Alex Ferguson (AFP)

Stoke-on-Trent - Alex Ferguson has warned his Manchester United players not to expect an easy ride when they face Premier League strugglers Stoke on Sunday.

With Manchester City in FA Cup semi-final action against Chelsea, league leaders United will move a step closer to regaining the title by moving 15 points clear at the top if they win at the Britannia Stadium.

On paper Stoke appear to pose little threat. They have slumped into the relegation dogfight after losing five of their last six matches and have never beaten United in the Premier League.

But, with Monday's derby defeat against City still fresh in the memory, Ferguson knows United have been below their best in recent weeks and the Scot is keen to guard against complacency as he looks to close out the title race.

"Stoke will be hard game and that's never going to change, but we always have to stand up to the mark in these games," Ferguson said.

"It's still a difficult game and difficult place to go to. If you ask any player or manager if they go to Stoke you know you are going to have to earn your corn. We know we are going to have to perform to get a result.

"They always present a challenge for you - the set-pieces are good, they are physically strong and the throw-ins are legendary. We have to deal with these situations.

"There are all different types of games and opponents in the Premier League. It gives it that variety of football that no other league has."

With only seven games remaining, United still have a substantial cushion at the top of the table despite their 2-1 defeat against City at Old Trafford.

And Ferguson urged his squad to end the campaign with a flourish rather than simply coast over the finish line.

"We have a job to do, and the incentives are for ourselves us in the sense of the position we are in with seven games left," said Ferguson.

"I think we have some nice games to look forward to and it's a nice time of the season for us.

"We are no different and Manchester City are no different, they will be looking at their remaining games and seeing where they can get the points.

"The important thing is the confidence and trust of the players. Which is absolute 100 percent for me. They have shown great resilience this season by coming back from a goal down time and time again."

Meanwhile, Stoke manager Tony Pulis admits he owes it to chairperson Peter Coates to turn things around at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke have just one win in 2013 and Pulis is desperate to avoid relegation for the club's owner, who has developed a strong bond with the boss during their seven years together.

"Peter's been more concerned about me than anything else," Pulis said.

"This week he popped down to the training ground. He doesn't usually do that. But he's come and had a cup of tea and a bite to eat with all the players and everything else.

"He's been very good. But I accept that if you don't get results in this job you will always be under pressure.

"It's more pressure for me because Peter is a friend. He doesn't just pay my wages.

"In adversity, that's when you show your strength of character.

"Over the past five or six years we've built up expectations and the greater you achieve, the more people want.

"Maybe if we'd have finished three of the last four seasons needing to stay up the pressure wouldn't be that great.

"But we've been to Europe, playing teams this club could never have imagined playing against like Valencia, and got to Wembley."

Read more on:    manchester united  |  epl  |  alex ferguson  |  soccer

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