Stoke City: Confident Stoke aiming to turn tide of their Manchester misfortunes
MANCHESTER'S miserable climate has rained cats and dogs on Stoke City over the past four years.
The Potters head for Old Trafford tomorrow still seeking a first Premier League point after eight attempts at both United and City.
The scale of their misery is all too evident when you consider the goal aggregate in four games at United is 13-1 and at City an equally dismal 11-0.
And of Stoke's 11 likely starters tomorrow, only Robert Huth and Steven Nzonzi have ever tasted a league win at Old Trafford.
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Huth's came early in his career at Chelsea, but Nzonzi is buoyed by the memory of last season's shock victory with relegation-bound Blackburn.
The only other Stoke starter with even a single point at United's HQ is Peter Crouch, thanks to an otherwise unremarkable 0-0 draw there with Aston Villa.
The fact that goalless stalemate came just seven days short of 10 years ago might leave many of us clinging to some kind of slender omen.
Stoke's assistant boss, Dave Kemp, pictured below, prefers to reach for more tangible indicators, believing the current squad travel north largely unburdened by any psychological barriers and boosted by their recent performances.
"Obviously it's a very difficult place to go," he concedes, "but with the group of players we've got this year, I feel this is our best chance of getting something.
"I remember we performed reasonably well there a couple of seasons ago when we got a goal and had a good spell, but then we dropped off again and lost the game 2-1.
"It's a case of going to those sort of places and imposing ourselves – and we've done that at Chelsea and Liverpool this season, which is pleasing.
"At times in the past, we've gone into our shell and not done as well as we could, but not at Chelsea and Liverpool this time.
"At Chelsea I was disappointed not to win, never mind disappointed that we lost.
"So if we go to Old Trafford with the same belief, then we can possibly get something.
"Obviously there will be spells on these grounds when you don't have the ball, but the important thing is what you do when you do have it."
And Kemp's pre-match optimism is untainted by the fact he tipped United for the title at the start of the season.
The signing of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie was clearly a factor in his choice, but so was the fact United only lost the title in the final few seconds of last season to their bitter Manchester rivals.
"Yes, I thought Man United would come again," says Kemp.
"They will have taken offence at what happened last season, and when that happens they usually come back and improve the following season.
"The drive their manager has, year after year, you can only admire."
Kemp watched United in action during a Capital One Cup victory over Newcastle last month when he was again reminded of their strength in depth.
"They look strong on any paper whenever I look at them," he quipped.
"People at that game were saying 'he isn't playing, he isn't playing' and so on, but when the game starts it's still Manchester United out there and they can often look to have as much talent in the stands as out on the pitch."