Stoke City: Dean Whitehead's goal is to finally put Old Trafford bogey to rest
D EAN Whitehead and Darren Fletcher are already pretty close – even before they possibly lock horns in midfield today.
The pair are feisty alternatives in the Stoke and United line-ups this afternoon when no quarter will be asked or given by either man.
Off the field, however, they are already mates of sorts and have even holidayed together.
Whitehead had better explain.
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"We were in Dubai together," he reveals, "because we share the same agent and had both gone out there to meet him."
And there you were imagining them sharing a nice Pina Colada on a two-man sun lounger in the Caribbean.
Fletcher is back playing again after a well-publicised bowel illness that left many wondering whether he would ever be seen in a United and Scotland shirt again.
"It's not the sort of thing I asked him about," said Whitehead, "but I did know bits and bobs about if from speaking to my agent.
"He's proved over the last two or three years previous to his illness that United relied heavily on him, particularly in the big games.
"He's always been a fit lad and can run for fun, but it will obviously take him a little while to get back because he must have missed a season when he was ill."
United's other significant change from last season is one Robin van Persie from Arsenal, of course, a player with something of a history against Stoke.
Whether it be cannoning into Thomas Sorensen to earn a red card at the Britannia, or stepping off the bench to bag the killer goals and turn 1-1 into a 3-1 win for Arsenal at the Emirates last season, the Dutch star has never been far from the headlines against Stoke.
"Obviously they've brought in guaranteed goals with van Persie," Whitehead acknowledges.
"And with Wayne Rooney back after injury again, it's probably a stronger United now than last season.
"Van Persie proved at Arsenal last season what a goalscorer he is, and already this season he's banging them in for fun. He's a major threat, along with Rooney."
The figures are certainly enough to send a shiver through the Stoke dressing-room before kick-off today.
There were an astonishing 44 goals in 57 appearances for Arsenal and Holland last season , while at United he's already struck seven in seven starts and two sub appearances in league and cup.
Whitehead also knows a thing or two about scoring at Old Trafford, of course, after notching Stoke's solitary goal there in four Premier League visits when equalising during a 2-1 defeat two seasons ago.
"Yeah, it was nice, but I was just disappointed they scored five-or-so minutes later. We had felt that once we got level, we could maybe hold them.
"Now we go there on the back of a couple of good results and hopefully we can come away with something."