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Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Alex Ferguson defends Stoke against physicality critics

Barclays Premier League: MANCHESTER UNITED v STOKE CITY
Venue: Old Trafford Date: Tuesday, 4 January Kick-off: 2000 GMT
Coverage: Watch highlights on Match of the Day (Wednesday); listen on BBC Radio 5 live and local radio; text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Pulis
Ferguson (left) has moved to defend the tactics Pulis (right) employs with Stoke

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has defended Stoke against criticism they get from other managers ahead of their trip to Old Trafford.

Ferguson thinks that judging Tony Pulis' side as too physical, as Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has done, is unfair.

"People have criticised their physical style of play but they stick to what they do best," said Ferguson.

"I have a great admiration for Tony and the wry way he rides the criticism. If anything, it galvanises the players."

Wenger was incensed by a tackle from Stoke's Ryan Shawcross which led to his midfielder Aaron Ramsey's broken leg in February, and he has previously accused Pulis' side of using "rugby style" tactics while calling some players "cowards" after a match in November 2008.

"I suppose Arsene Wenger has been one of their main critics, but then he does go off on a tangent at times," stated Ferguson.

606: DEBATE

"For instance, he criticised our pitch after they lost here before Christmas and I was at a loss to understand why." Ahead of their match against the Premier League leaders on Tuesday, Pulis said he was hoping for a change of luck after Stoke - who sit eighth in the table - lost their two previous league meetings at Old Trafford 5-0 and 4-0.

"We will go to Old Trafford and give it our best shot," he said.

"We've run them close at our place but not at Old Trafford. We've struggled there. Hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves."

With United still struggling to play the attractive football they have become known for, the club's defender Nemanja Vidic admits that Ferguson's side are surprised by the season's events so far.

"This season is very strange," commented Vidic. "If you had told me five weeks ago that Chelsea would be in the position they are now, I wouldn't have believed it.

"Everyone thought they were the strongest team and that they would win the title. But then they didn't win for six games.

"And look how many points we have lost this season. If someone had told me this would happen, I would have said we could not win the league. But here we are top and still unbeaten."

The hosts have fitness concerns over Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Nani but Stoke have a near fully-fit squad to choose from.



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see also
Man Utd 2-1 Stoke
04 Jan 11 |  Premier League
Wenger criticises Man Utd pitch
14 Dec 10 |  Premier League
Wenger bids to ease Stoke tension
16 Dec 10 |  Stoke
Wenger fears Rovers 'rugby' match
26 Aug 10 |  Arsenal
Pulis criticises 'moaning' Wenger
17 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Stoke chairman disappointed with Wenger
05 Nov 08 |  Football
Wenger furious at Stoke tackling
05 Nov 08 |  Premier League
How to watch Match of the Day
09 Aug 11 |  Match of the Day


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