Over the last two weeks, football has been somewhat of an afterthought at United, with all the attention focused on David Moyes’ successor who, presumably, will be unveiled next week and is extremely likely to be speaking Dutch.
Football, of course, still has a role to play in this most endless, disappointing and beleaguered of seasons, whose finishing line seems destined to remain something blurry on the horizon. Good as it would be to draw a line on this season, after 10 months of dross and disappointment the last seven days have provided a welcome relief, with Ryan Giggs making his managerial debut in style, Liverpool losing the initiative in the title race and John Terry’s tears filling our TV screens yet again.
Since United dismantled Norwich 4-0 last week, the clamour for Giggs to be installed has grown but even if Giggsy was to win his next three games in charge, a world class manager would be more than welcome at Old Trafford, particularly if that means Giggs can learn from a more experienced man and develop into a top manager himself.
Getting rid of Moyes looked to have done a world of good to United in the second 45 minutes against Norwich and while Giggs has good chances of securing a second successive win, Sunderland are likely to provide a much tougher test than the Canaries did. A few weeks ago it seemed United would have the chance of relegating Sunderland tomorrow, thus executing revenge on the “We support our local team, but we can’t be bothered to fill our ground for a semi-final” fans who celebrated Sergio Aguero’s goal that won City the league two seasons ago as wildly as they would have done had they won the league themselves.
Sunderland, however, have enjoyed a remarkable revival, failing where David Moyes had failed by putting up a fight away at City and Chelsea and emerging with well deserved points from both trips and will be desperate to put further daylight between them and the bottom three.
United, on the other hand, have virtually nothing to play four, apart from trying to swerve the minefield that is the Europa League, which is currently six points away, even though United have a game in hand on Spurs, who face a tricky trip to East London. Giggs, however, has made abundantly clear that he wants his players to win the remaining three games and expect United to set out to attack tomorrow, hopefully picking up where they left off against Norwich.
Robin Van Persie has returned to training but might not be fit in time for tomorrow, which means Danny Welbeck could be leading the line given Wayne Rooney is out injured, with a stomach bug and a groin strain. Considering the stories that have emerged this week regarding Rooney’s alleged dislike for Louis Van Gaal, the timing of his injury is suspect to say the least but, then again, it all has a feeling of deja-vu to it.
Juan Mata should replace Antonio Valencia, which means we might even see a few crosses reaching their intended target, while Marouane Fellaini might feature at some stage, given Giggsy has said he wants to give minutes on the pitch to a lot of squad players over the next four days, meaning even the human bog brush might get a chance.
In the League Cup semifinals, United delivered two of the worst performances of the season, here’s hoping tomorrow will be another step in the right direction. If nothing else, at least we already know we won’t have to suffer the ignominy of another penalty shootout.
Probable starting XI: