Following Manchester City’s shock defeat at Goodison Park coupled with Manchester United’s victory over Reading just hours later the gap between the two Manchester clubs now stands at fifteen points, with Manchester United having the opportunity to extend that to eighteen in the early kick off against Sunderland. With the general consensus that the title race is now all but over Sir Alex will be more determined than ever to ensure his players guard against any form of complacency, with the idea of putting a number of goals past a struggling Sunderland side being more than appealing to the experienced Scotsman following events that occurred at the Stadium of Light on the last day of last season following Manchester City’s last gasp title victory.
Sunderland have endured a very one step forward and one step backwards campaign this season with the significant progress made with Martin O’Neill at the helm last season having not progressed. The acquisition of Adam Johnson from Manchester City in the summer has been one of the more positive points of the Black Cats’ season with the England international putting in stellar performances on numerous occasions. However, the lack of spending on other areas of the squad has been evident this year and has manifested itself in the clubs results, playing style and position in the league table. Sunderland currently sit it fifteenth position with a four point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone however with the Wearside club having not won any of their last five Premier League outings it is difficult to see them gaining anything from tomorrows fixture against as Joe Hart described them, the “killing machine” that is the 2012-2013 Manchester United side.
Following a week where International football took centre stage there will undoubtedly be some fatigued players especially after most European nations played two games in the space of four days. With England doing the same with matches hasn’t San Marino and Montenegro with Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick all playing a part it will be interesting to see if Sir Alex rotates his team selection to give his international players a rest especially with an FA Cup Quarter Final replay at Stamford Bridge on Monday afternoon. Sir Alex Ferguson in his pre-match press conference this morning stated that Phil Jones, Paul Scholes and Nani are all back in training following injury layoffs and are being muted as potential starters as Sir Alex looks to rest his international players. Anders Lindegaard may also start his first game in goal since January with David De Gea being rested for the trip to Chelsea on Easter Monday.
Martin O’Neill will be cursing his luck after leading scorer Steven Fletcher was stretchered off in Scotland’s international fixture against Wales last weekend and it has been confirmed that the former Wolves man will miss the visit of Manchester United and the rest of the league season, the same goes for Lee Cattermole who will look to regain fitness for next season as injury has prematurely cut short his 2012-2013 campaign. Stephane Sessegnon after being withdrawn from the Benin squad to face Algeria midweek will be given a fitness test prior to tomorrows fixture against United after aggravating a groin injury against QPR, it is expected he may miss out tomorrow. David Vaughan after missing Wales’ World Cup Qualifier against Scotland through injury also faces a battle to be fit for tomorrows match.
- Sunderland haven’t beaten Manchester United in a Premier League fixture since March 1997, with the Black Cats running out 2-1 victors at Roker Park that day.
- Sunderland’s last home win in the Premier League came on January 12th against West Ham United.
- Manchester United head into tomorrow’s fixture with Sunderland on a run of five straight League wins in which they haven’t conceded a goal.
After a lean spell in front of goal in recent weeks, Robin Van Persie buoyed by his international form following a brace against Romania and a single strike against Estonia and will be hoping to carry on this form into Manchester United’s remaining Premier League and FA Cup fixtures. Van Persie has been the main man this year at Old Trafford with his goals and the consistent basis upon which they arrived prior to the last month, keeping Manchester United ticking over in a way they have not been able to do since the halcyon days of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Dutchman’s strike rate has also taken the pressure of Wayne Rooney and has allowed Rooney to adapt his game to play in a multitude of positions in and around the midfield and attacking midfield areas, and this will be good practice indeed for when Sir Alex decides to drop Wayne Rooney into a deeper midfield role which seems inevitable as his career progresses. With Sunderland displaying defensive fragilities on numerous occasions this year much to the frustration of coach Martin O’Neill who prides himself on how his teams are difficult to beat, it could well be the day when multiple chances fall Robin Van Persie’s way and after rediscovering his goal scoring touch for Holland there is little doubt the club’s top scorer will find the back of the net for the twentieth time this season.
Having been Sunderland’s stand out player in what has been a disappointing season by both his and the clubs standards, Adam Johnson still had the potential to cause Manchester United all sorts of problems tomorrow afternoon. The Sunderland born winger will be hoping he can do his old club Manchester City a favour in the title race by at least preventing Manchester United from extending their lead at the top to eighteen points. Martin O’Neill may well utilise Adam Johnson on the right hand side tomorrow with particular focus being put on Patrice Evra’s defensive naivety and lack of focus evident at times over the past couple of seasons. With Johnson positioned on the right he has the beating of Evra you would imagine in terms of pace and with Johnson favouring his left foot there is the potential for the former Middlesbrough man to cut inside and get a shot away on his strong foot which is something admittedly Evra has dealt well with this campaign, the trouble often comes when the former France captain is asked to deal with an overlapping run of a full back.
£20 Wins You:
Sunderland to win: £105
5 Goals in game: £175
van Persie scores 1st to break duck: £80
Danny Graham to open account: £105[/one_half]
£20 Wins You:
Chelsea to win both halves: £155
United to win both halves: £190
Over 2.5 Goals to be scored in game: £100
United to score first: £41
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]