Sunderland Vs Manchester United Match Preview | Stats & Tactical Analysis

Sunderland Vs Manchester United Match Preview | Stats & Tactical Analysis

Sunderland caretaker boss Kevin Ball is set to face another tough task in the dugout on Saturday afternoon, as Manchester United travel to Wearside hoping to build on their midweek draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League with a win on English soil.

Sunderland Vs Manchester United

David Moyes saw his side pick up a valuable point over the Ukrainian Giants on Wednesday and will want to use that confidence booster in order to get United up-and-running in the Premier League, whilst Ball could seriously put himself in the frame for the permanent managerial position at the Stadium of Light if he could lead the Black Cats to their first victory of the season over their visitors.

Sunderland, who are currently sitting at the foot of the league table after six games, have insisted they won’t rush into replacing recently-departed head coach Paolo Di Canio, whereas twelfth-placed United are looking to bounce back from their disappointing 1-2 defeat against West Bromwich Albion last week.

Team News

The hosts will be without Phil Bardsley (foot), Wes Brown (calf), Andrea Dossena (thigh) and Steven Fletcher (shoulder) for the game, whilst both Darren Fletcher (illness) and Rio Ferdinand (groin) are ruled out for United but Wayne Rooney, who missed the clash at the Donbass Arena with a shin injury, will return to the first-team fold to the delight of his manager.

Ball vs Moyes: Possible Team Line-ups and Brief Tactical Analysis

The typical formation Moyes tended to deploy during his 11-year spell on the Everton touchline was the 4-4-1-1, which involved the man playing just off the striker being involved in just about everything going forwards whilst equally putting in a quality shift defensively for the team, such as Tim Cahill or Marouane Fellaini.


Wayne Rooney, who has scored three Premier League goals and created nine chances (including assists) so far this campaign, is the obvious choice to operate that role and the bigger importance for Manchester United to consider will be selecting those to support both him and Robin Van Persie out wide.

Sunderland’s inverted wingers of Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini will mean the players chosen will have to track back and support the full-backs brilliantly throughout the game, whilst also posing a threat in the final third as Moyes will make clear the importance of gaining the three points against a struggling outfit.

Danny Welbeck, who scored in United’s 1-1 draw at Shakhtar, is likely to keep his place on the left-hand side for his goals and work-rate, although Shinji Kagawa may be asked to play there for extra creativity, whilst Nani could be preferred to Antonio Valencia on the right in order to get at Jack Colback and add more spice to their attack as they hunt down a much-needed win.

Michael Carrick, who has made the second most passes (467) in the league at the moment, will again anchor the midfield and keep things ticking over nicely, whilst Fellaini will partner him but will push forward at every given opportunity in order to give his team-mates a bigger target to aim for in-and-around the box.

Ball, who claimed this week that he has the full backing of the playing squad, tweaked Di Canio’s 4-2-4 system into a 4-3-3, which easily morphs into a 4-5-1 when in defensive mode, against Liverpool last weekend and it looked a healthier setup.

Sebastian Larsson and Ki Sung-Yueng, who completed 100% (20/20) of his attacking third passes against Liverpool, are both extremely comfortable when in possession and with Lee Cattermole adding increased steel in combination with their patience on the ball, Sunderland look far more balanced in midfield and all three will try to prevent Rooney from picking up the ball in dangerous areas whilst providing good service for both Johnson and Giaccherini to flourish.

Johnson, who has conjured up 11 chances (14 in total) from open-play so far this season, will be repeatedly instructed to test United down the right after they struggled in that area against West Brom – although Patrice Evra is likely to replace Alexander Büttner for this match – whilst Giaccherini will want to fluidly come inside from the left, drive into United’s half and cause both Carrick and Fellaini problems with his pace, sharpness and quick change of feet in the final third.

[tps_title]Next Page: Key men and match prediction[/tps_title]

Sunderland: Key Men and Where the Game Could Be Won or Lost for Them

Although he was sidelined with a knee injury during the start of the season, it was still common knowledge that Di Canio wasn’t particularly keen on keeping former captain Lee Cattermole at the club, should a suitable offer have come in, under his regime.

But following the dismissal of the Italian, the 25-year-old was thrown in against Liverpool by Ball and despite seeing his side lose 1-3, Cattermole produced a strong display in the heart of the midfield and gave an indication that he can still be a vital player for Sunderland this season.

Whilst Sunderland were awfully unlucky in certain games under Di Canio, they clearly missed somebody in midfield who had that bite and raw determination to help close out crucial results, with the isolated Cattermole being the blatant person to come in and solve that.

In some ways, he is a forgotten man with something to prove and with the likes of both Rooney and Kagawa being exceptionally gifted when allowed the space in their opponents half, Cattermole could be pivotal should he play in the fixture and will win the adulation of the fans if a big result can be earned thanks to a sturdy performance.


The tough-tackler won 100% (3/3) of his challenges, recovered the ball nine times and completed 85.7% (30/35) of his passes against Liverpool and not only did he protect the backline to the best he could, but he also allowed both Ki and Larsson more time on the ball and that only bodes well for future results.

Stéphane Sessègnon caused United all sorts of problems when bursting into the attacking zones at Old Trafford for West Brom and with Giaccherini easily capable at attempting to repeat that for Sunderland, a solid result can be salvaged should Cattermole play his part by keeping things resolute at the back whilst staying focused on the task for 90+ minutes.

He does have a tendency to lose concentration at critical moments, especially when looking at his disciplinary record over the years, but Rooney mustn’t be allowed to make his powerful runs into perilous territory unaccompanied and Cattermole will be essential in not only helping things flow from the back but also stepping in and breaking up any fruitful play from the opposition on the day.

Manchester United: Key Men and Where the Game Could Be Won or Lost for Them

It has been well documented and discussed that the manager who was ready to replace the great Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United would be under a great deal of pressure to live up to his very high standards and with the reigning Premier League champions currently sitting in the second half of the table after six games, Moyes is already being grilled by the media.

With just seven points being collected, although things at present are running smoothly in Europe, anything the Scotsman seems to say is being questioned and many have already started to overlook his experience in the Premier League with Everton.

Moyes has inherited a squad boasting a wealth of knowledge, yet are ageing, and he needs time to freshen it up. One man who was heavily linked all summer with a departure has so far showed the most promise under the new man’s stewardship and it is him that could once again hold the key to a United win.

Rooney, who has completed 90% (35/39) of his defensive zone passes so far, has always been a big influence in the nitty-gritty side of things for United and whilst his goals and creativity have also been equally impressive in 13/14, his performance against West Brom was below-par like everybody else in the famous Red jersey in the game and he will need to quickly improve to help United silence their early critics.


Against West Brom, Rooney’s attacking zone success rate was just 58% (22/38) and whilst he is carrying the burden of bringing physicality, creativity and goals to the fore, if Sunderland try to squeeze and foul him through a possible three-man midfield, any direct free-kicks will be a great opportunity for the England international to grab with both hands.

He has only scored four goals from direct free-kicks in his Premier League career, but three of those have come in his last three appearances and even if he doesn’t go for goal, United are even more of a threat from set-pieces this season now that Fellaini, who scored five headed goals last season, is in the ranks after his £27.5m deadline day move from Moyes’ former paymasters on Merseyside.

Sunderland have conceded seven goals (half of their total conceded tally) in the final 15 minutes of Premier League matches this season – a league-high – and with United’s record over the years at scoring late winners also in mind, patience could be a virtue for Moyes’ men but with their wingers potentially set to be tested by both Johnson and Giaccherini’s creative exploits, Rooney will need to be everywhere once more whilst Van Persie will be praying the 27-year-old can provide the exquisite service for him to profit from in front of goal.

Interesting Statistics

  • Sunderland have won just eight points from a possible 72 in their 24 previous matches against Manchester United in the Premier League.
  • Sunderland have lost four consecutive Premier League games and the last time they lost five on the trot was back in March 2006 (six games in a row).
  • David Moyes has only lost one of his last 16 Premier League meetings with Sunderland (W11 D4) and the defeat came as recent as last season at the Stadium of Light whilst he was Everton manager.
  • Manchester United have lost two consecutive Premier League games and the last time they lost three in a row was in December 2001.


Both sides will be dogged in their attempts to try and claim the coveted three points, due to their respective forms, and the game is set up to be an end-to-end tie. The key area in which several key battles will take shape is the centre of the midfield and whichever side controls the tempo of the game could go on to win, although that may take some doing.

Prediction: Sunderland 1-1 Manchester United

Referee: Chris Foy