Sunderland vs Manchester United
Barclays Premier League (Saturday 30th March, 2013 – 12:45pm KO)
Ex-United defender Wes Brown on this weekend’s encounter: “Manchester United aren’t going to be complacent, not at all. They’ll be focused on the game and looking to make sure there’s no chance of Man City catching up. But we need points too and that starts on Saturday.”
The international break struck Sunderland, and manager Martin O’Neill, a hammer blow in the form of a season-ending injury to striker Steven Fletcher. For a side so bereft of goals this season, the loss of their top scorer could have massive repercussions in their fight for survival. They currently find themselves 15th in the table, 4 points clear of the relegation zone, and on a run of 7 games without a win (3 draws, 4 defeats). So what better way to resume Premier League duties than with the visit of Manchester United?
As well as Fletcher, missing for the Mackems will be midfield enforcer (I’m being kind) Lee Cattermole (knee) and, likely, Carlos Cuellar (ankle) while Stephan Sessegnon could feature after pulling out of the Benin international squad. David Vaughan has an outside chance of being involved.
Of the ex-United contingent, Wes Brown remains on the sidelines (knee) and will therefore play no part. John O’Shea, however, will start and captain the side. O’Shea, with 15 trophies under his glorious United-belt, recently admitted that a relegation scrap is “…not something I’m used to.” We feel for you, Sheasy, really we do.
Predicted Sunderland line-up: Mignolet, Rose, Gardner, O’Shea, Bramble, Johnson, McClean, Colback, Larsson, Sessegnon, Graham
Home record: P14 W4 D6 L5 F17 A16 Pts18
Home form: L W D L D D
Sir Alex Ferguson selection after an international break: “I don’t think there are any injuries which is really good news… There’s a fair bit of tiredness and the answer to that is to make sure we get the energies back in their bodies. Hopefully it will give us a good strong squad to approach the two games on Saturday and Monday. We’ll try and keep the momentum going with he run we’re in at the moment. If we do that, Monday (Chelsea) will take care of itself.”
United came through the international fixture list unscathed. If anything, other than the obvious rigours of travel, some players came out ahead. There were goals for Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez, an encouraging display from Antonio Valencia, and a(n arguably) much-needed return to the score sheet(s) for Robin van Persie in two comfortable Netherlands victories. All-in-all, there was not too much to grumble about.
Hernandez and Valencia were the last to return (on Thursday) and therefore may not feature against Sunderland, with Chelsea the more likely destination for the pair. Shinji Kagawa, too, travelled to Japan and back so his level of fitness will need to be determined. Good news comes in the form of Nani, Paul Scholes and Phil Jones returning to training. Time will tell if this weekend’s fixtures have come a little too soon for the trio.
Elsewhere, freshness comes from the likes of Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Rafael and, that man, Rio Ferdinand, who all enjoyed some time off while their team mates represented their countries. Expect all four to feature prominently in one, if not both, of this Easter weekend’s fixtures, starting with Sunderland on Saturday.
Predicted United line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Welbeck, Carrick, Giggs, Young, Rooney, van Persie
Away record: P14 W10 D2 L2 F30 A16 Pts32
Away form: W D W D W W
Record at the Stadium of Light: P11 W7 D3 L1 F19 A8
Recent meetings at the Stadium of Light
Sunderland 0-1 United (13-05-12), Sunderland 0-0 United (02-10-10), Sunderland 0-1 United (02-05-10), Sunderland 1-2 United (11-04-09), Sunderland 0-4 United (26-12-07)
Kevin Friend. The 41-year-old official has taken charge of 17 Premier League matches this season, dishing out 60 yellow cards and a solitary red. He has awarded 3 top-flight penalties and last took charge of a United match in February’s 1-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Goals: (Sunderland) 33 – (United) 69
Conceded: 42 – 31
Top scorer: Steven Fletcher (11) – Robin van Persie (19)
Assists: Adam Johnson (5) – Wayne Rooney (9)
Most shots: Steven Fletcher (55) – Robin van Persie (103)
Most appearances: Simon Mignolet (30) – Robin van Persie (26/3)
Completed passes: Sebastian Larsson (866) – Michael Carrick (1823)
Disciplinary: 47 yellows, 0 reds – 43 yellows, 0 reds
Average possession: 44.4% – 56.5%
Pass success rate: 77.0% – 85.8%
United have never lost a competitive league fixture at the Stadium of Light.
United are on a run of 5 Premier League matches without conceding a goal.
David de Gea’s run of 537 minutes without conceding, while impressive, is some way off of Edwin van der Sar’s record of 14 matches and an incredible 1,311 minutes.
In Premier League history, United’s top scorer vs Sunderland is… Own Goal (5). Wayne Rooney has 4.
Only Wigan (3) and QPR (2) have registered fewer home wins than Sunderland (4).
Sunderland have rescued a mere 6 points from losing positions this season – only Fulham (4) have a worse record of recovery
Danny Graham has gone 369 minutes without a league goal.
Should Chris Smalling feature, it will be his 50th Premier League appearance for Manchester United.
Wayne Rooney is three goals away from joining the illustrious ‘Manchester United 200 Goals’ club.
Score prediction: Sunderland 0-3 Manchester United