Match Preview: Manchester United vs. Sunderland


By Jason Freeman


This fixture last season served up an easy 2-0 victory on Boxing Day with Berbatov getting the first and the 2nd could have been his too but it was later credited as an Anton Ferdinand own goal. It was a game in which Manchester United dominated and perhaps should have won by more and could have, had it not been for the woodwork.

Sunderland are a different side 12 months on though with not many of the side that day still at the club or in the first team. Having only won 2 games so far this season though it’s perhaps fair to say that Steve Bruce’s side are struggling a bit, but he deserves time after his good work in his first few seasons. In my opinion, he has a good side but he has not been helped by departures to arguably his 4 best players from last season in Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, Jordan Henderson and our very own Danny Welbeck who was on loan at Sunderland last season. Despite the loss of these players and their bad start to the season, they should not be underestimated as they have some very good individuals at their disposal with Wes Brown at the back, Vaughan and Larsson in the middle and Sessegnon, who in my opinion is their main threat for the weekend’s game and I believe with Ashley Young injured we will play Park Ji-Sung on the left wing to follow him around and mark him out of the game as Sessegnon has looked very dangerous so far this season.

It was vital for us to bounce back after the nightmare against City and we did just that away at Everton, a fixture which has proven to be a tough game over recent years, so to come away from there with a win was a very good result in my opinion. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but after the disaster the week before, a win was the main priority. Now we’ve got that win under our belts, we can hopefully start to build some form over the next 2 months to take us into the 2nd half of the season, and as we’ve seen over past seasons, we seem to get stronger as the season goes on. With 3 clean sheets in our last 3 games, Man United will look to continue that record and pick up a win before yet another international break.

Team News:

United have a number of injuries and doubts coming into the game, with up to 8 players possibly unavailable for the game. Evra is said to be attending his 42 year old brother’s funeral, Carrick and Anderson are doubts while Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling are all out of contention. Carrick is however believed to be fit for the game which will serve as a boost to our depleted midfield. I expect David De Gea to continue in goal with the defence largely unchanged from Wednesday night apart from Vidic returning to partner either Ferdinand or Evans, I would expect Ferdinand to continue despite the possibility that his days of playing 2 games a week are coming to an end. Fabio is likely to continue at left back with Evra unlikely to be available and the ever-present Phil Jones will continue at right back after his very impressive performance in midweek. Carrick and Fletcher are likely to partner each other in midfield with Nani and Park flanking them. Rooney will return to his favoured position after impressing in midfield in midweek and will probably line up alongside Danny Welbeck.

Opposition View:

Here, at Stretford End Arising we spoke to members of the Sunderland forum and asked their thoughts on the upcoming game, Wes Brown and more:

Saturday’s game

I am certainly looking forward to the contest with a little more optimism following Sunderland’s recent performances over Bolton and Aston Villa, however my optimism will either be increased or hindered by Bruce’s tactics/formation. Unfortunately three words have plagued our season, four five one Sunderland will try to defend as Bruce cannot help himself. I would prefer the manager to start the game with an attacking intent and try to win rather than set out not to lose the game because a defeat is the most likely outcome anyway. The team will probably be: Westwood, Bardsley, Turner, Brown, Richardson, Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, Gardner, Sessegnon, Bendtner. However, from what Bruce has said on Friday morning he may play Wickham on the left so possibly Cattermole or Gardner would miss out. Hopefully Bendtner can hold up possession allowing Sessegnon break from midfield. In general I think Sessegnon will be the key. Norwich had 3-4 good opportunities on the break and if anyone can create similar panic it will be him.

2011-12 Season

Overall the start to the season has been very poor and that’s massively down to the manager! To sum up: negative, cautious, steady but uninspiring.

Summer Transfers

Larsson has been very impressive. He possesses phenomenal delivery (in the last few years we have been weak at free kicks and corners), has chipped in with goals and works hard. He is an improvement on Henderson without paying a transfer fee. Wickham seems like he will produce the goods now finally given the chance and Bendtner oozes class. Unfortunately John O’Shea has disappointed, but I am sure he has not been fully fit since he came to us.

Brown and O’Shea

Brown has largely been class; the odd mistake but generally excellent. He has been an absolute steal. O’Shea has been disappointing, but maybe we need to see him completely fit before we can judge properly. Both lads however have demonstrated great professionalism and have been very positive about their move to Sunderland, which is nice to hear.


After a regular run in the side (from November) Welbeck looked a class act, who was on a different wave length to most of our players, so his performances this season and goal scoring record hasn’t surprised me. As a player and a person he will always be welcomed back at Sunderland.

Bruce’s Tenure

Positives – stabilised the club, clearly improved the squad, seems a decent bloke.
Negatives – way too negative for me, has not adequately replaced major players quickly enough, tactically inept

Overall, I feel the next month will dictate how myself and a lot of Sunderland supporters view his time in charge.

Three Key Battles:

Wes Brown vs. Manchester United

Back at Old Trafford for the first time since his departure, Big bad Wesley Brown will look to stop United scoring for a change. Wesley seemed to start the season very well for Sunderland putting in a man of the match performance against Liverpool. Wes relishes the big game and they don’t come much bigger than this, i’m sure he won’t let the occasion get to him and will do his team proud, his efforts may not be enough though.

Park vs. Sessegnon

Sessegnon has started the season very well and when i’ve seen Sunderland play, he’s been the main standout for me. I expect Park Ji Sung to play and follow Sessegnon around the pitch to stop him being such a threat as Park so often does.

Vidic vs Bendtner

While i’m not a fan of Bendtner, he’s a tall player and the aerial battle between him and Vidic could be interesting. But I expect Vidic to come out on top especially after his dominance in the air against Everton last weekend.


United will continue to try and find the right balance between defence and attack and I think it will click in to place this weekend with a clean sheet and a healthy win. 3-0 with Welbeck the first scorer.

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