Come Saturday it’s another 3pm kick-off for Manchester United, and this time they host 16th placed Sunderland. Sunderland have won only one of their last twenty-five Premier League games against Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal will hope to extend this record.
Manchester United suffered a 2-1 defeat to Swansea City last week, allowing both Liverpool and Spurs too move just touching distance from Van Gaal’s men. With this said, the game has now become a must win for Manchester United, and as favourites, fans will not only expect a win but also a pleasing performance.
Sunderland have had a rather disappointing season. Having managed to avoid relegation and achieve some incredible results last season, Sunderland fans may have hoped that their team could continue this form into the 2014/15 season. However they have done anything but that, having only won one of their last nine Premier League matches, and currently sit 16th, just three points off the bottom three. Sunderland fans will be hoping that last season’s 1-0 victory over United (at Old Trafford) will strike belief back into Poyet’s team.
In Friday’s press conference Louis Van Gaal has confirmed that his team will be without Dutch striker Robin Van Persie, and it is unknown how long he will be out. Speaking in his press conference Van Gaal said, “An ankle problem takes a long time – it’s not one or two weeks.” Michael Carrick has returned to training following his calf injury, however he is unlikely to feature, whilst James Wilson has recovered from a dead leg and may make an appearance.
Sunderland will be without both Jack Rodwell (groin) and Billy Jones (ankle), whilst Italian, Emanuele Giaccherini is set to miss the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery.
Having watched Manchester United lose to Swansea it was clear where the problems lay. The Red Devils were not outclassed by the opposition, but instead, the loss came through individual errors. This was shown through both goals where opposition players were left in acres of space to either run onto goal or have shots on goal. A question on many fans lips will be, ‘Well how can we change this?’ One change I would make is to take Maroune Fellaini out of the team. The Belgians slow passing and lack of first touch showed, and was key in the slow transition between both the defence and attack. Fellaini pushed further up the field also sacrifices a lack of creativity, as players such as Januzaj, Mata and Young miss out and so I feel that the Belgian midfielder should miss out. If this is to happen it should lead to United playing a faster and more fluid game.
I feel that a 4-2-3-1 formation best suited for the players Van Gaal has at his disposal. In nets De Gea is expected to continue: the Spaniard has been in incredible form this season and has been quoted saying “I am playing the best football that I’ve ever played.” At right-back I would like to see Rafael make a rare appearance. The Brazilian has barely had a look in during Van Gaal’s reign despite being the clubs only true right-back, however, a game against Sunderland could mark his breakthrough into the team. At centre-back I expect both Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to continue their partnership. At left-back Luke Shaw should continue his run in the team.
Blind should start as the anchor man in midfield and just infront of him Ander Herrera will look to start his third game in a row. On the right wing I would like to see Ashley Young, the Englishman offers width to play and by playing on the right the winger is able to deliver quick crosses into the box. On the left wing Angel Di Maria should start. The Argentine looks best when running at defenders, and by playing him on the wing United will be able to attack quickly and stretch the opposition defence.
Behind the striker Juan Mata should make an appearance. The Spaniard has been overlooked in recent weeks, and has failed to make a start since coming off at half time against Queen Park Ranger. However, Mata offers United something that Fellaini doesn’t, creativity. The Spaniard has scored five goals this season and has assisted three times. He is a key player for the attack as he helps to connect both the midfield and strikers, and he also has an eye for a pass, again something Fellaini seems to be missing in his game. With Van Persie injured I can see Wanye Rooney make an appearance. Many may consider the injury of Van Persie to be a lifeline for Falcao, however I feel that playing Wayne Rooney at Striker is better for the team. Rooney has shown that he is able to hold the ball up at striker (e.g for Herrera’s goal against Swansea), and has a creative side to his game, something Falcao seems to lack.
Too close, I can see United controlling the game from start to finish and coming away 2-0 victors.