On Boxing Day, Manchester United welcome David Moyes back to Old Trafford as his Sunderland side prepare for a match with vital importance for both teams, but for two totally different reasons.
Manchester United have hit a good run of form, after their abysmal start to the season. Their three straight Premier League wins leave them just four points off the top four. But after the poor start to the season they had, every point is crucial, especially points available at home against a relegation battling team.
This game is important for Sunderland because they are a relegation threatened team, so they need every point they can get. Despite United’s good string of results, Sunderland will want to look at them as a team that can be beaten, or at least have a point taken off of them. Not only will the team be motivated for a match against Manchester United, but Moyes will be motivated to get one over on his former employers.
Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkitaryan will both return to the Manchester United squad, while Luke Shaw remains out.
Sunderland have quite a few people out through injury. Billy Jones, Steven Pienaar, Jack Rodwell, and Javier Manquillo all have a shot to play, but are unlikely to pass fit, according to Physioroom.com. They’ll also be missing Duncan Watmore, Jan Kirchhoff, Paddy McNair, Lee Cattermole, and Lynden Gooch through long term injuries, according to Physioroom.com.
This is Moyes’ first match against Manchester United since he was fired by the club in April 2014. He won only 26 of the 51 matches he managed in his time at United. Sunderland will find it tough to break through against United as they have only scored four goals in eight matches away from home and United have only conceded six goals in eight games at Old Trafford. United have only been able to scratch 11 goals in eight home matches themselves, but they’ll hope the arrival of 18th place Sunderland will prove to be an easier test and help them add to their goal tally.
Manchester United: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Despite some finishing struggles, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut season has gotten off to a fantastic start. The Swedish striker’a 11 Premier League goals put him third in the Premier League, behind only Alexis Sanchez and Diego Costa. He’s also the only Manchester United player to score more than three league goals so far this season. His 4.6 shots per 90 minutes is second in the league behind only Sergio Aguero, and indicate that his goal scoring form should continue. The Swede has put on a clinic so far this season for Manchester United and could have a field day against an often shaky Sunderland defense.
Sunderland: Victor Anichebe
Since signing for Sunderland on deadline day things have gone pretty well for Victor Anichebe. He’s scored three goals in eight appearances, only six of which were starts. David Moyes has often utilized the large Nigerian in a wide target man role, where he plays the defensive role of a winger, but when the ball turns over he gets up to play as support to Jermain Defoe. It’ll be important that he makes sure Defoe gets his chances to score while not falling asleep on his own defensive duties.
Manchester United should be able to brush their opponents aside relatively easily. They are at home, they are in good form, and they have the talent advantage, so they really should come out of this with the three points.