Sunderland take on Manchester United this weekend at the Stadium of Light in what is an important game for both the teams involved. That being said, the two teams are at opposite ends of the table and on paper it seems like it should be very one sided. However, nothing can be determined in the EPL, and for all we know, Sunderland could pull a victory over the Red Devils.
While Sunderland is generally having a down season, the Black Cats have actually been playing well in the past several weeks as they have been unbeaten in four of their last six outings. The team had pulled off wins over Aston Villa and Swansea City while drawing with Bournemouth and just recently powerhouse Liverpool to gain points in the league table. Yet, they remain in second to the last place of the standings four points clear of cellar-dweller Villa. Their previous match, a 2-2 draw with Liverpool, was held at the Anfield last Saturday.
Manchester United managed to get an away draw at Stamford Bridge last week as Chelsea equalized their one goal lead very late in the game. They need a win after that unfortunate draw against Chelsea. United did put up a good performance at Stamford Bridge, and they will be looking to continue with that form. The Red Devils’ title hopes are dwindling though, as they have failed to keep pace with the top contenders. They have won three of their last six games, just enough for fifth place in the overall standings, six points clear of fourth-running Manchester City.
Defensively David De Gea and Chris Smalling have been on top of their game and hopefully Luke Shaw will return to peak form. Schweinsteiger has missed the last five games after suffering a knee injury against Sheffield United on January 9. Marcos Rojo is yet to return to training after shoulder surgery while long-term absentees Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are still out. Louis van Gaal is expected to name an unchanged side to the team which drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge, though Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin are pushing for starts.
The Black Cats came from 2-0 down to pick up a precious point against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend and Sam Allardyce will be looking for similar spirit from his side when they line up against Louis van Gaal’s men. Sunderland battled bravely to take a point against Liverpool last week, but with just one win in their last five home fixtures, there is no doubt that the Black Cats require a significant upturn in fortunes if they are to avoid slipping into the second tier at the end of the current campaign. Adam Johnson is expected to miss out for the Black Cats after pleading guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl, though Jeremain Lens could return.
• The teams last played in September 2015 and Manchester United won the game 3 – 0. Before that they played in February 2015 and Manchester United won the game 2 – 0.
• Sunderland is currently nineteenth in the Premier League with 20 points having won 5 games, drawn 5 and lost 15. They are three points below Norwich City.
• Manchester United is fifth the league with 41 points having won 11 games, drawn 8 and lost 6. They are two points above West Ham.
• Sunderland have failed to score in eight of the last 12 Barclays Premier League matches against Manchester United and only once in each of the other four encounters.
• The Red Devils have won 21 and lost just two of their 29 Premier League games against the Black Cats.
• Sunderland have never beaten Manchester United in the league at the Stadium of Light (D4 L9).
• Wayne Rooney has been involved in as many Premier League goals in six games in 2016 (five goals, three assists), as he had in 33 games in 2015 (six goals, two assists).
• Sunderland are on the longest current run without a clean sheet in the Premier League (11 games).
• The Red Devils have collected just six points from their last six Premier League away games (W1 D3 L2).
• Sunderland have won just six of their previous 49 Premier League games in the month of February and have the worst points per game ratio in this month of all current Premier League clubs (0.63).
League Head to Head
26/09/2015 Premier League 2015/2016 Manchester United 3 – 0 Sunderland
28/02/2015 Premier League 2014/2015 Manchester United 2 – 0 Sunderland
24/08/2014 Premier League 2014/2015 Sunderland 1 – 1 Manchester United
03/05/2014 Premier League 2013/2014 Manchester United 0 – 1 Sunderland
22/01/2014 League Cup 2013/2014 Manchester United 1 – 0 Sunderland
07/01/2014 League Cup 2013/2014 Sunderland 2 – 1 Manchester United
Manchester United – Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial is a star in the making. What might have been positional uncertainty over whether he was best out wide or in the middle has instead proven to be valuable versatility, as Martial can be as deadly sneaking between centre-backs to run onto a through ball as cutting inside on a full back and putting one through the spin cycle. The Frenchman is an exceptional dribbler, a strong finisher, combines well in the team’s build up play, has the vision and ability to see and execute dangerous passes to set up his teammates for shots, shows solid decision-making and is unselfish—practically every skill a modern forward needs to be successful.
Sunderland – Jermain Defoe
Striker Jermain Defoe was the hero of the day for Sam Allardyce’s squad as he netted the equalizer one minute before full time after teammate Adam Johnson scored their first goal in the 82nd minute of the match.The 33-year-old was often played out on the left at the start of the season and scored just two goals in six league matches as a result.
However, following the Dutchman’s resignation at the start of October, new boss Allardyce sent Defoe back up front and has been rewarded with eight goals in 15 league matches, including six in the last half-dozen games. Defoe is certainly happier and it is reflecting in his play as he snatched an 89th-minute equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool on Saturday.
The predicted result is a 2-0 victory for Manchester United. Louis van Gaal’s boys have been inconsistent this season and so they will try to bounce back from the poor showing at Stamford Bridge last week.
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