Preview: Sunderland v United

Alex Buttner v Sunderland

More than 10 months on from the scene of Manchester United’s most traumatic title defeat in recent memory, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side returns to the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime. United beat Sunderland last May. but few remember the game or result amid Manchester City’s celebrations that followed.

While the Blue quarter of Manchester commenced the party, a small corner of the north east joined in, Sunderland fans ‘doing the Poznan’ in a moment of joyous schadenfreude. It is an image imprinted in the collective consciousness of those who attended United’s 1-0 victory.

In the intervening months Ferguson’s side has taken title disappointment and channelled the pain into a what now looks to be a successful Premier League challenge. United’s 15-point lead could stretch further after the weekend’s games.

However, revenge, says the Scot, is not on the agenda; not with a title to claim and another game to check off the list. Just eight league games remain after United’s trip north.

Yet, few on the terraces this Saturday will forget the last visit here, even if United walk away from the Stadium of Light 18 points clear.

“You see a lot of that with supporters’ reaction to many things,” said Ferguson of Sunderland’s conflicted supporters.

“It was disappointing and it’s hard to take these things with the way it all panned out. I thought we’d won it for 20 seconds and it was snatched away from us.

“There’s not any bitterness from my point of view. It happens and we move on. We’ve dusted ourselves down and made a really good challenge in the league this year. The concentration has been fantastic and the team spirit is really good. So, in that respect, we’ve answered it as best we can.

“So I don’t have any issues with the Sunderland fans. I don’t think the Sunderland fans wanted City to win it any more than we did. It was just a fact that they were our opponents that day and it goes back to what I was saying about present society.”

Ferguson’s side travels north facing two games in 48 hours, with an FA Cup replay against Chelsea in London on Monday likely to play some part in the Scot’s weekend team selection. Indeed, with half-a-dozen players returning from draining double-header internationals last week, Ferguson is likely to use his full squad over the next two matches.

Fortunate, then, that not only did five key players miss out on international week altogether, but a further group of players are set to return from injury over the next two matches. Heading into the 45th fixture of another busy season – with no more than 12 matches to go – Ferguson is certain to spread the load liberally in the coming weeks.

“The players who will miss the international trips like Giggs, Anderson, Vidić, Büttner and Rafa will be key players on the run-in,” said Ferguson.

“I don’t think there are any injuries from the internationals which is really good news. There’s a fair bit of tiredness and the answer to that is to make sure we get the energies back in their bodies. So there’s the recovery side to it with not much training.

“There was a fair bit of travel – Chicharito and Valencia only got in yesterday afternoon and the English players got back at 5am. Other than that, we’re very satisfied.”

“Nani, Jones and Scholes are all doing a little bit of training, which is encouraging. Hopefully it will give us a good strong squad to approach the two games on Saturday and Monday. We’ll try and keep the momentum going with he run we’re in at the moment. If we do that, Monday will take care of itself.”

Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League, Stadium of Light - 30 March 2013, 12.45pmIndeed, the United manager is likely to go with the freshest possible options for Saturday’s fixture, with Anderson, Ryan Giggs and Alexander Büttner certain to start. In midfield Nani could return, although Paul Scholes may make only the bench.

It is in the forward areas that Ferguson has the toughest selection choices, with Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernández and Shinji Kagawa each playing twice last week. The latter pair travelled to South American and Asia respectively.

Meanwhile, Sunderland arrive in desperate trouble at the foot of the Premier League. Martin O’Neil’s men have picked up just two points in the past six games, leaving the Mackems just four points of the relegation places. Worse, momentum appears to be with Sunderland’s rivals – Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, Wigan Athletic and even Reading have picked up more points over the same period.

It leaves the Irishman under severe pressure, fighting not only for Sunderland’s survival the season before the Premier League’s huge new television deal kicks in, but his own reputation. After successful spells in charge of Leicester City, Celtic and Villa, O’Neil now stands on the precipice of relegation.

With matches against Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle following United’s visit, O’Neil has very little time in which to turn Sunderland’s season around.

O’Neil’s man play out the season without key striker Steven Fletcher too, with the striker suffering ankle ligament damage on international duty with Scotland. Defender Carlos Cuellar is also injured, although Stephane Sessegnon could return to a squad desperately short on quality. Lee Cattermole and former Red Wes Brown also miss out.

“The old cliché about people stepping up to the plate has never been more relevant,” said O’Neill, who walked out on Villa in summer 2010 in a dispute over transfer funds.

“Remaining upbeat is actually in my nature. I can be down when we’ve lost matches but fighting back is part of me. Being down is not in my nature. Setbacks are part of the game. You have to expect these things. We have some great games ahead that we can look forward to rather than shy away from. They are tough but exciting to be involved in.”

Yet, Sunderland’s supporters appear to be losing faith; leading fanzine Roker Report recently describing a team “headed for the iceberg” and in O’Neill a manager that “is too proud to let go of the helm.”

Cliché, of course, but this is a ship sinking fast, with the rats abandoning astern. Few Old Trafford regulars will hold any sympathy of course. Not after that Pozan on that day.

“The fans have come in big numbers to support us,” claimed O’Neil.

“We have not given them a great deal to support all season. They are entitled to be frustrated. Personally speaking, I believe this is years of pent-up frustration that Sunderland have not won a trophy for 40 years.”

Not unless the Stadium of Light faithful are claiming that City victory last May, of course.

Match details
Sunderland v Manchester United – Premier League, Stadium of Light – 30 March 2013, 12.45pm

Possible teams
Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; Bardlsey, O’Shea, Bramble, Rose; Johnson, N’Diaye, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Graham. Subs from:  Westwood,  Larsson, Kilgallon, Vaughan,Mangane,  Gardner, Mandron, Noble, Wickham

United (4-4-2): de Gea; Rafael, Vidić, Evans, Büttner; Nani, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs; Welbeck, van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra, Powell, Cleverley, Carrick, Young, Hernández, Valencia,  Kagawa, Rooney.

Match officials
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistant Referees: J Flynn, D England
Fourth Official: L Mason

Form
United: WWWLDW
Sunderland: LLLDLD

Head to Head
Last 10: Sunderland 0, United 8, Draw 2
Overall: Sunderland 39, United 59, Draw 36

Prediction
0-3

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Comments

  1. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Sir Alex needs to put out his best XI (or something very close to it) in the Cup quarterfinal replay if United are to advance. Therefore, it does look likely that he will put out one of his “ought to be good enough to win” sides at the Stadium of Light. I just hope it isn’t as weak in the middle as your projected selection, but, then again, if Carrick doesn’t start, none of the alternative combinations is much stronger.

    I’m guessing that in trying to juggle the squad to win both matches, United will end up winning neither: a diabolical performance at Sunderland ending in a no/low-score draw (think the Reading match minus Rooney’s goal), followed by an extra time or shootout loss to Cheatski.

  2. God only knows what 11 Fergie will cobble together. He’s had 2 weeks to think about it n all.
    So long as it’s enough to do the job then I’m not that arsed about getting revenge for last year right now.

  3. Violent Banana says:

    We get our revenge when we win the league back from City. Couldn’t give a shit about the Sunderland fans’ reaction last year; that’s not why it hurt…

  4. I think RVP Roo for Sundeland. then Hernandez replacing RVP Monday. hernandez is latest to come back so can use the extra 48 hours…

    Middle i think Giggs will replace Carrick at Snderland. Even potentially Scholes but depends on how rusty he is.

    Snderland are classless Poznan dancing ingrates. Hope we skin them alive but given FA Cup will ve happy with a. 1-0

  5. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    de Gea
    Rafa / Smalling / Vidic / Büttner
    Anderson / Carrick
    Valencia / Kagawa / Young
    van Persie
    Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Evra, Cleverley, Nani, Powell, Welbeck
    Decent lineup with subs that can make a difference. Would be great if United were far enough ahead for Powell to get a half hour or so of playing time.

  6. He’s nailed it.

    Line up vs. Chelsea will be equally as strong:

    DDG
    Da Silva
    Evra
    Ferdinand
    Evans
    Carrick
    Cleverley
    Giggs
    Nani
    Rooney
    Hernandez

    As you say – hope to see Powell as some stage.

  7. From bbc
    Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Vidic, Smalling, Buttner, Valencia, Carrick, Anderson, Young, Kagawa, van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Evra, Evans, Nani, Welbeck, Cleverley, Powell.
    Edit: sorry thought the post by diablo was a guess….

  8. First mention of last seasons game by the commentators

    Nice Rio chant from United n all

  9. You think that your moustache is trendy

  10. Violent Banana says:

    Christ Young is wasteful

  11. Get in, just shoot and see what happens

    He’s back

  12. Where’s your famous City song

    Then going down going down

    The United fans are making this a home game, they’re class

  13. Violent Banana says:

    Lovely stuff from Shinji, Carrick and RVP. Young effortlessly frustrating.

    DDG very little to do so far

  14. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Valencia and Anderson: total crap; Young only marginally better.

  15. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    I just hope Brian was able to get a decent streaming link….

  16. Look at O’Neil being a cock on the touchline

    If he signed some players who were good at football he wouldn’t get so stressed out

  17. At first I thought they were deliberately fouling our players, but then I realised they’re just really shit and can’t get close

  18. Diving cunt, Van didn’t touch him

  19. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    That’s a straight red according to some… fuck off… not even a yellow.

  20. We are in control…but we just dont kill them off….not incisive enough in attack…

  21. Anantax said:
    We are in control…but we just dont kill them off….not incisive enough in attack…

    I was just going to say this.

    We will be hanging on at the end. Typical.

  22. Young and Valencia are painfully shit.

  23. It’s that time when Kagawa and Clev drop out of the game and we lose it in midfield

  24. A second goal and the midfield gets a lot easier

  25. Brilliant from Smalling

  26. Buttner, touch wood, has played well thus far.

  27. That’s a red card for Bardsley, surely

  28. I’m going to say an English football cliche

    When the game gets rough and tackles are flying in, Kagawa disappears

  29. So we’re settling for 1-0.

    Against Sunderland.

  30. Fucking Andershite has done…welll…shite…

  31. Smalling is class today

  32. 6 fucking minutes

  33. Good win. We never really worked that hard. DDG made like 2-3 routine saves.

    But worrisomethat we just didnt looked that decisive in attack…

  34. We won but I did not enjoy that.

    It really annoys me that we play like that nearly every week.

    Shit ball by young at the end for the van Persie chance.

  35. 6th clean sheet in a row in the league. They never really had a clear cut chance

    They’re fucknig shit too, they’re 99% energy runaboutyness and 1% brains

    United fans were class today n all

  36. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    There have to be at least ten sides in the Championship that are better than Reading and Sunderland, but United can only score one against each of the two worst sides in the Premiership. Forget my previous estimates of United averaging 20-25 minutes of playing something like its best per match. Against Reading, United played maybe five good minutes in each half, but today, the players never got out of first gear. The results are fantastic, but the football is SHITE!

  37. Denton Davey says:

    RobDiablo @ 2:34: “Valencia and Anderson: total crap; Young only marginally better.”

    You’ve got that backwards, AshleyBloodyYoung is an awful player – apart from a single, very good, left-footed cross in the first few minutes he did the square-root-of-sweet-fuck-all. He’s a total waste-of-space who provides a perfect example of subtraction-by-addition because when he plays Nani gets stuck on the bench. Nani might be “inconsistent” but at least there are some highs to go along with his low-points.

    Anderson was – well – just Anderson; two or three excellent, diagonal through-balls but a lot of huffing-and-puffing but he wasn’t blowing down any houses.

    AV7 tried hard but he looks a shadow of his former self. What’s happened ?

  38. Think going out of Europe has taken a lot of the excitement out of the season for the players. Just going through the motions with the league pretty much done. They’re just doing the job with minimal effort.

    Rafael apparently out of the Chelsea game with a groin injury.

  39. Damian Garside says:

    Lucky we got the goal. If we dropped 2pts — followed by City’s impressive 4-0 win, they they might just have seen the faintest glimpse. But it’s still 15 pts with 8 matches to go. Almost impossible, barriing an ending scripted by Wes Craven. If we mess this up everyone at the club would (bugger the idea of “tiredness”, “exhaustion”,) deserve to be shot.

  40. ForeverRed says:

    3pts is what matters but really poor stuff.Complete dearth of excitement in this team. 2 games on the trot we’ve made clueless relegation fodder look half decent. Buttner and Vidic the standout performers today, along with our away support of course!

    I’ll wager we’ll lose to Chelsea on Monday and then winning the league will seem something of an anticlimactic end to the season, despite the accomplishment it should feel.

    Need to bring some quality in in the summer. Too much mediocrity to challenge the best in Europe – Young, Valencia, Cleverly, Anderson, Kagawa – put in honest shifts but don’t turn games. Too easily dominated, lightweight and no pace. We can’t counter attack these days without turning and laying the ball back – no-one confident of taking on and beating a man.

    If Europe’s to be our goal once more, we need some changes!

  41. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    Oneill sacked…he might get the united job now

  42. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Never happen… he’s the Darren Fletcher of management… plenty of graft… no gift for the game.

  43. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    captainhormone said:
    Oneill sacked…he might get the united job now

    I thought he was the favorite still…

  44. He’d put together a collection of runaboutalot try hard monster wankers, and spent a lot of money in the process

    All energy, no brains

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