A season often referred to as a marathon is now little more than a sprint. Thirty-eight games have been condensed into a two game sprint. The only problem being that the other runner, in this two-horse race, has a distinct advantage. The advantage is so distinct that we have to rely on help from our enemies over at Anfield if we`re to win a fourth successive title. The only problem is we`re not 100% sure they are willing to oblige!
Liverpool losing (on away goals), and playing extra time, on Thursday night, was the worse case scenario for Manchester United. It`s a fact that Sir Alex has picked up on pre-match, prompting him to comment,
“Its Rafa`s job to lift his players,”
“I`ve been there myself. When we lost to Bayern Munich it was a difficult job to raise the players – but you have to get over it. You simply cannot wallow in pity at this club.”
But, whilst the focus is on the Liverpool fixture before we take on Sunderland, there could be a sting in the tail awaiting us at the Stadium of Light. Lurking amongst the Sunderland team is a certain Frazier Campbell.
Campbell, as every United fan is aware, is a former United player and the thought of him scoring against us to scupper our title chances haunts the youngster who is quoted as saying,
“My job now is as a Sunderland player and I will try the best I can. There is no way I am going to miss the target on purpose, but if I score it will be a weird sensation.”
“It could stop United getting the title I won`t be going out in Manchester for a while. But my aim is to finish 10th.”
Let`s not even think about such a scenario shall we!
Sunderland Team News:
Sunderland will be without the suspended Alan Hutton for this game after the ex-Rangers defender got a straight red card after tangling with Altidore at Hull last weekend.
Out through injury are the duo of George McCartney and Andy Reid whilst there are doubts about the fitness of Lee Catermole and John Mensah.
Player to watch: Darren Bent
Silenced his critics this season with a hatful of goals, United will need to keep him in check otherwise the dream of four in a row could be over.
United Team News:
Sir Alex takes his squad to Sunderland without Michael Owen and Anderson, both of whom are injured. There is also a doubt about Gary Neville who has been struggling with a calf injury.
Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney both returned to training on Friday and both, considering the importance of the occasion, could be risked in the starting eleven.
Player to watch: Nani
Could the Portuguese winger go down in the history books as the player who turned the title race on its head? His goal against Spurs was class but, so often, his influence isn`t what it should be. Time to thrill us again young man!
Match Facts & Stats
If we take a peep at the recent record between the two clubs, United definitely have the edge.
Sunderland have not beaten United since March 1997 with United registering 11 wins and 4 draws since then.
In the reverse fixture, at Old Trafford, this season, Sunderland came close to ending that barren run and only a last minute own goal, from Anton Ferdinand, gave us a share of the spoils with a 2-2 draw.
Steve Bennett is the referee charged with keeping the lid on things!
Sunderland have been playing well in recent weeks, especially at home, losing only 1 of the last 17 games. United need to win if they`re to clasp onto hopes of a fourth title, irrespective of the result at Anfield earlier in the day. I reckon they will but it will be close, 2-1 to United.
Next Sunday our season finishes with a home fixture against Stoke City, whether the title will still be within our grasp will only become crystal clear after the round of fixtures this weekend.