TONY PULIS believes that Stoke City’s powers of concentration will hold the key to them getting something out of their visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.
Pulis is hoping his side can reproduce the kind of performance that saw them get within a few minutes of claiming an excellent draw at Chelsea last month, only for a late strike from England defender Ashley Cole to inflict their first defeat of the season.
City’s manager points to the disappointment of going down to such a late goal on that occasion in sizing up the challenge which is faced at the top clubs.
“If you don’t concentrate for the full 90 or 95 minutes at the top clubs, then you get punished,” commented Pulis at his pre-match press conference.
“You only have to switch off for a few minutes and clubs like United will tear you to pieces because they have top, top players who make you pay for it.
“In five minutes, the game can change. You can be doing ever so well, then you switch off for a moment and they pounce; so you have to concentrate all the time.”
He added: “What we have got to do is go to Old Trafford and put in a performance on a par with the one at Chelsea. But that was an occasion where we were so close to getting something out of the game and then one lapse in concentration proved to be costly.
“If we can match that performance at Stamford Bridge and have the courage to get forward when we are in possession, then who knows what might happen?
“We were disappointed in many respects with the outcomes at Chelsea and Liverpool because we had good chances in both games early on. Had we taken those opportunities, then the results might have been a lot different in both instances.”
City’s trip to face Sir Alex Ferguson’s side continues what has been a particularly tough start to their fifth season in the Barclays Premier League.
But Pulis is pleased with his side’s return from the first seven matches in which they have already faced Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
“We have only been beaten once so far and, as I’ve said, we were disappointed with that outcome in the end, so we’ve done well in the circumstances,” he said.
“There is no doubt that this is going to be a big, big test for us, as tough as they come. But we have given them a game on our last two visits up there and come close.
“I watched them in the second half against Tottenham, when they were outstanding, and the Cluj and Newcastle matches, all of which showed that they are clicking into gear. So we know it is a big ask for us to get a result at Old Trafford.”