Ferguson aims to bring 'jolly green giants' down to size
Alex Ferguson has described today's opponents at Old Trafford as "jolly green giants" but maintains Stoke City hold no fears for his Manchester United side.
Stoke have often posed problems for the Premier League's leading teams but since they returned to the top flight in 2008, they have gleaned just one point from eight matches against United.
"We've got the jolly green giants coming to play against us tomorrow," Ferguson said. "You can get yourself in a tangle about that because they are a handful at set-piece plays and long throw-ins, but you can't make a terror for yourself."
Ferguson has plenty of time for Tony Pulis, who has transformed Stoke's fortunes since his arrival at the club in 2006, and dismisses critics of their robust style of play.
"Tony has done a fantastic job. I can see progress every year, right from the foundations of the club in terms of youth players breaking through into the first team.
Continuity brings consistency and they are a formidable outfit now," he said. Pulis, meanwhile, is convinced Ryan Shawcross would not have been in contention for an England place if he had stayed at Manchester United.
Shawcross was plucked from the relative obscurity of United's reserves five years ago to emerge as one of the best centre-halves in the country, earning a call-up to Roy Hodgson's squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland. The 25-year-old did not feature in either game but is targeting a first cap in the friendly against Sweden next month.
Shawcross joined United as a 15-year-old and made only two appearances in the Carling Cup but will face Ferguson as Stoke's captain, with Pulis insisting he can still improve.
"I'm not so sure Ryan would have played many games if you look at Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand," said Pulis. "Sometimes you have to take a step back to take steps forward. I think Ryan would be the first to say by coming here he's got the opportunity he might not have got at Old Trafford." (© Daily Telegraph, London)