When this season’s fixtures were released back in June, United fans would have been forgiven for thinking the footballing gods were smiling down upon them, as they were pitted with three promoted teams and three teams from the lower half of the table in their first six matches; with the season only one week old however, United fans who were quietly confident, even despite new manager Louis van Gaal’s insistence that it would take at least three months to get United back on track, have been forced to rethink their team’s prospects following their shock 2-1 defeat in their season opener against Swansea. What had appeared an easy run of fixtures now seems littered with tricky ties, and next up for Van Gaal is a trip to Sunderland.
Following a miraculous survival last season, Gus Poyet has cause to be optimistic about his Sunderland team this season, as he aims to build upon a run of form towards the end of last season that saw his side earn as many points as title challengers Liverpool and Chelsea. The Black Cats showed character to comeback to earn an entertaining 2-2 draw at West Brom last weekend, with a Sebastian Larsson goal levelling the scores with five minutes remaining. Where a match with United would usually generate fear in their opponents, that aura seems to have evaporated following last season’s tumultuous campaign under David Moyes, and on the contrary, Poyet will be fancying his chances when the two sides meet.
However, he will be without new signings Santiago Vergini and Billy Jones who are both nursing injuries, while Sunderland fans will be hoping to see more of summer signing Jack Rodwell, who joined from Manchester City for £10 million. United, on the other hand, are plagued by an injury list that is much longer; Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick won’t return from their injuries till at least September, while it remains to be seen whether Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Jonny Evans are fit enough, after they all missed the defeat at Old Trafford. Robin van Persie however, is back in contention following an extended break from the World Cup.
Last season’s corresponding fixture saw Adnan Januzaj burst onto the scene with two goals to earn United the three points, three points that this time round, that Van Gaal will be desperate to attain as he aims to rebuild a dynasty at Old Trafford.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 4pm.
Man Utd 0 Sunderland 1 (Larsson), Premier League, May 2014
Man Utd 2 (Evans, Hernandez) Sunderland 1 (Bardsley), Capital One Cup, January 2014
Sunderland 2 (Giggs OG, Borini) Man Utd 1 (Vidic), Capital One Cup, January 2014
Sunderland 1 (Gardner) Man Utd 2 (Januzaj 2), Premier League, October 2013
Sunderland 0 Man Utd 1 (Bramble OG), Premier League, March 2013
Wayne Rooney currently has 174 Premier League goals and only needs one more to draw level with the third top scoring player in PL history, Thierry Henry.
Juan Mata scored six goals in 15 league appearances for United last season, compared to zero in 13 for Chelsea earlier in the campaign.
Vito Mannone (77.4 per cent) had the best save percentage rate of any goalkeeper in the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League.
Last season Sunderland became only the second team to be bottom on Christmas Day and avoid relegation (after WBA in 2004-05).
Sunderland to win: 5.2
Man Utd to win: 1.77
As the curtain began to close on last season, Sunderland recorded a 1-0 win against Man Utd, thanks to a Sebastian Larsson goal. It was their first win at Old Trafford since 1968. The result was enough to take Gus Poyet’s side to the brink of safety and preserve the Black Cats top-flight status.
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1HD at 4pm. Highlights on BBC1 at 10.25pm