Preview: Manchester United need to help earn Sunderland relegation


Sunderland -v- Manchester United

Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Premier League 2016/17

Sunday 9th April 2017; KO 13:30 BST

Live on Sky Sports 1HD

Manchester United travel to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on Sunday afternoon as Jose Mourinho and David Moyes go head-to-head once more. Moyes’ relegation threatened side need all the help they can get to avoid the drop to the Championship at the end of the season, which is a position the Black Cats have been in for many of the recent seasons, avoiding the drop with some resurgent play in the latter matches of the season. At this stage of the season, though, Moyes’ side sits ten points from safety, which could change if Hull City beat Manchester City or if Swansea City beat West Ham United. Middlesbrough’s clash with could put Sunderland under a bit more pressure, but Boro are three points clear of Moyes side before that match has even kicked off. Moyes has his work cut out this season, perhaps he could take the Premier League strugglers down this season, as that is what they deserve. There are better Championship teams ready to come up, who could provide a much better challenge. Enough of that, though.

Mourinho’s United have struggled to score goals this season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in all competitions, which looks good, but the fact that other players are far from scoring, is a problem. When the Swede does not play, United do not have a player ready to step into his boots. Goals are scored, but not enough. After Zlatan, Juan Mata has scored the most goals with ten in all competitions. United’s attacking contingent need to find a way to score more goals, which could even happen without reinforcement. We have seen some attacking play this season, lots of chances being created, but finishing is the major problem that needs to be addressed. Ibrahimovic has missed 17 clear-cut chances in the Premier League alone this season, Paul Pogba has hit the woodwork nine times in all competitions. Creatively, United are there, but the finishing needs to be much better. If only half of United’s failed goals were scored this season, they would be in a much better position and not be having to wait for chances to break into the top four – they would be there already. Time is running out for things to fall into place this season.

Sunderland will be a tough match for United. Earlier in the season, United beat Sunderland 3-1 at Old Trafford with Daley Blind, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring the goals, but Fabio Borini scored in the 90th minute of the match, a consolation goal for the visitors. Sunderland have only seven Premier League matches remaining after the visit of United, so if they don’t fight for a victory, time to salvage their season and their Premier League safety will in effect run out. If the teams above Sunderland keep winning, especially those outside the bottom three, the void will only grow larger, which will see the Premier League strugglers finally fall into a league they deserve to be playing in. I am not one to hold a grudge, but back in the 2011/12 season when Sergio Aguero scored that late goal to see Manchester City win the league, the Sunderland fans, who has seen their team beaten by United at the Stadium of Light, did the ‘Poznan’ in celebration that United did not win the league. That would see me only shedding tears of laughter if this season gave them relegation. Well deserved.

Match Officials:

Craig Pawson will take charge of this match, his third involving Manchester United this season. Pawson was the referee in the FA Community Shield where United beat Leicester City 3-1 at Wembley. In that match, Eric Bailly was the only United player to be booked. Pawson then took charge of the match against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on the 14th December. United won the match 2-1 with goals from Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Three United players were booked in the match; Marcos Rojo, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford. The assistant referees have been named as Ian Hussin and Richard West, with the fourth official being Mike Jones.

Form: Twenty matches unbeaten in the Premier League mean nothing when half of them were draws!

Manchester United: Manchester United are unbeaten in 20 Premier League matches this season. Their last defeat came against Chelsea back in October. That sounds good when you say it like that, but when you realise that half of those unbeaten matches were draws, you then realise that Manchester United are underachieving once more. United have progressed since the dark days under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, but there still is a way to go before we see a United side capable of challenging for a Premier League title. This season started well, but defeats in the first nine matches of the season caused more problems than Jose Mourinho would have wanted. The fact United have drawn twelve times in the league in total this season, nine of those being at Old Trafford, underlines the fact improvement is needed.

Sunderland: David Moyes’ Sunderland side just do not belong in the Premier League. Every season they can be found at the bottom of the league table, seemingly fighting for their safety. They seem to play poorly throughout the season, then turn on some form at the end, avoiding relegation so far. This season, though, everything is against them. They are ten points from safety, at least before Saturday afternoon’s matches, which means time will soon run out to secure another avoidance of relegation into a league they belong in. If the teams above them keep winning, that will be enough for Sunderland to admit defeat and succumb to the lower leagues. There are many decent clubs in the Championship and beyond who will happily accept the challenge of the Premier League. Look at the three teams that were promoted last season; Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City. Burnley are 13th in the league, Boro are 19th and Hull are 17th – but that could change this afternoon.

Former Reds:

Sunderland seem to have an affiliation with former Manchester United players, having many over the years. John O’Shea, Sunderland’s captain will go head-to-head with his former club on Sunday. O’Shea was a decent level player for United, more of a utilitarian by then manager Sir Alex Ferguson, putting in some good memories whilst wearing the famous red shirt. In the summer, David Moyes pounced on United pair Paddy McNair and Donald Love, both of whom were out of favour with Jose Mourinho. McNair is currently on the sidelines with an ACL injury. Darron Gibson left United for Everton back in 2012 but signed for Moyes’ side during the winter transfer window. Perhaps he will be looking to help his new side beat his former club, aiming for Premier League safety this season. Adnan Januzaj, currently on loan, is ineligible to play against his parent club, and could well find himself out of favour by Mourinho in the summer, who confirmed on Friday that he had made his decision on the forward’s future but did not give any indication what that could be.

Who are the top scorers at both Manchester United and Sunderland this season?

Manchester United: 27 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, 7 – Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 5 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 3 – Marouane Fellaini, 2 – Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia

Sunderland: 14 – Jermain Defoe, 3 – Victor Anichebe, Patrick van Aanholt, 2 – Younes Kaboul, Paddy McNair, 1 – Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Lamine Koné, Didier Ndong

Team News:

Manchester United will be without Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young for the visit to Sunderland. United also have three long-term injuries to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata. Aside of that, United have a full squad to pick from. Mourinho has not given any clues as to who will play against David Moyes’ side, but the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera all need to be involved as that could see United through to scoring goals aplenty. Moyes will be without Jan Kirchoff, Steven Pienaar, Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair through injury and Adnan Januzaj is not eligible to play against his parent club. United will have a period of rest after this match, ahead of Thursday’s visit to Belgium to face Anderlecht, so putting a strong team out to help Moyes’ side into the Championship next season would be a good result, in my book at least.

Previous Meetings:

Manchester United and Sunderland have a great history which stretches back to the 4th March 1893 with a total of 144 matches being played to date. Of those matches, United have won 64 times, drawing 38 and losing 42 times. The last time United lost to Sunderland was not all that long ago. On the 13th February 2016, Sunderland beat United 2-1 at the Stadium of Light with Wahbi Khazri and David De Gea scoring an own goal. Anthony Martial scored for United that day. With this being the last trip to Sunderland, United will need to keep this result in the back of their minds, ensuring they do what is needed to get the three points and the return to winning ways in the league. United’s longest stretch unbeaten against Sunderland last twenty matches from the 31st January 2001 until the 5th October 2013. All the matches were played in the Premier League with United winning 16 times, drawing four times. United’s biggest victories over Sunderland were 5-0 maulings on the 21st December 1996; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Eric Cantona both scored a brace with Nicky Butt getting on the score sheet, and the 26th November 1966; four goals from David Herd and one from Denis Law. The biggest defeats, both 6-0 maulings came on the 11th December 1926 and the 4th April 1893.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Sunderland?

Predicted Score:

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United

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copyright: JW

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