Following a hard fought draw against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, Manchester United journey to the North East for a game against crisis club Sunderland for their third game in just a week.
United have made their worst start to a domestic season for 24 years and are yet to score a league goal from open-play since the opening day, a worrying statistic given the wealth of attacking options at David Moyes’ disposal.
Back-to-back losses to West Brom and Manchester City have seen United fall well off the pace in the Premier League eight points off the top, and a reaction is needed to ensure more ground isn’t lost on Arsenal ahead of the international break.
Sunderland lost both games against United last season, a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford and 1-0 loss back at the Stadium of Light.
Much has changed for Sunderland since then with defeat last season signalling the end of Martin O’Neill’s stay on Wearside.
Paolo Di Canio replaced O’Neill but became the first managerial casualty of the season after a dreadful start and youth coach turned caretaker manager Kevin Ball is now in charge. The playing squad are still yet to fully gel after a whole host of summer arrivals and they currently lie bottom of the table on one point with a ten goal deficit.
United go into the match in good shape with Rio Ferdinand the only real doubt after a groin injury saw him miss the midweek Champions League game. Rooney, who missed the fixture too, should recover after a minor shin injury forced him out while Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley both made their injury returns in the Ukraine.
Sunderland are still without the prolific Steven Fletcher who is a long-term casualty and ex-United players Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley are likely to miss out. Former Liverpool player Andrea Dossena is set to miss out as well. Emmanuelle Giacherrini, a summer signing from Juventus, has looked impressive so far and could be a threat after scoring last week against Liverpool.
It’s difficult to envisage another loss for United especially given how poor Sunderland have played so far this season. After a solid display in midweek which saw Nemanja Vidic and co. defend resolutely for the majority of the game, hopefully we can build on that performance and kick on. The next four league games will be seen as a time when United can get their act together and a professional, composed performance is needed.
United have not lost three league games on the spin since 2001 so Moyes will be seeking to avoid equalling an unwanted record, especially with his reign at United coming under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks after results have faltered.
Games against Sunderland have a little extra spice these days after Sunderland cheered Manchester City’s last-minute winner two seasons ago and it’s always nice to get one over on the Black Cats.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United