Manchester United host Sunderland in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semifinal, trailing 2-1 to the Wearsiders and requiring a win to clinch a spot in League Cup final for the fourth time in eight years.
Ahead of tonight’s game, we have caught up with Sunderland blogger Joseph (@SunderlandWorld) who was kind enough to share his views on tonight’s game, Wes Brown and United’s malaise.
Like any Sunderland fan, if I’d been offered a 2-1 lead going into the second leg at Old Trafford, I would have bitten your hand off. It puts us in a fantastic position for the second leg. However, I’d never bet against United, especially since there’s only one goal in it, but having Adam Johnson in the form of his Sunderland career and the consistency of the likes of Jack Colback, Ki, Wes Brown and John O’Shea under Gus Poyet can only help us.
2. Which United players should Sunderland most be aware of if they’re to get something out of the tie at Old Trafford?
I think if Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are fit, we have to focus on stopping them, because regardless of form, on their day they are one of the best strike partnerships in Europe. Michael Carrick can be very effective in the middle of the park, and Adnan Januzaj has had two very good games against us this season.
3. Is Gus Poyet the right man for the job and have you been surprised at the sheer gulf in performances between Poyet’s Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland?
I think Poyet the right man for the job definitely. If we go down, we have a manager who is proven at Championship level, and if we stay up, we have a manager with fantastic potential who can take the club forward.
I have been surprised, but as time went on, and stories started to trickle out about what it was like under the Di Canio regime, I was less surprised. He seemed a complete nutter and a nightmare to work for, and it’s quite easy to see why we started off as poorly as we did. Even under caretaker manager Kevin Ball performances improved drastically, so his departure lifted a massive weight from the players shoulders.
4. What happened to cause such a dip under Di Canio in your opinion? Results were promising and so too performances during your pre-season under him, was it something specific?
It was a combination of factors. I don’t ever think you can read too much into the pre-season results to be honest, and they cannot compare with a meaningful Premier League game. Several players who did well in pre-season, like Cabral, who has since been loaned out and David Moberg-Karlsson haven’t really made much of an impact on the first team. Plus, when we played the likes of Spurs and City they were yet to do the majority of their summer business, and neither were we really.
5. If you were to reach the Cup Final to obviously face high-scoring, in-form Manchester City, would you be daring to think of a win or would it automatically be damage limitation?
If you go there looking to limit the damage, then you’ve already lost. I’d much rather we got hammered and given it a go than sitting back and getting beaten 1-0. We’d have nothing to lose, so I’d much rather that we go for it than not. We’ve beaten City several times over the past few seasons, so we’d be definitely capable of getting a result. If we get to Wembley, it would mean we had beaten Manchester United and Chelsea, so anything is possible really.
6. The league is table has bunched up recently with improved results for yourselves and Palace coupled with dips in form by West Ham, Stoke and Cardiff. How confident are you Poyet and your boys can avoid the dreaded drop despite being bottom at Christmas?
I am quietly confident. It’s so tight at the bottom that if you can put a few wins together then you’ll be in mid table, but equally lose a couple and you could be cut off. However, there are still a lot of games to be played and like all of these teams, the business we do in January will have a massive say in whether we survive or not. If we bring in a decent striker, most of our home games look very winnable, so we have every chance of survival.
7. I think Wes Brown has had an excellent season thus far and in my opinion, with the current below par options at centre back, England manager Roy Hodgson should be calling him up and considering him for Brazil in the summer. Do you agree?
Wes has been fantastic for us this season. His return from injury has coincided with our improvement defensively and when he plays well, Sunderland play well. However, I very much doubt that he will, purely because of his age and the fact England would traditionally rather pick a player playing averagely for a top club than pick a player having a good season for a club at the wrong end of the table.
8. Any prediction for the game?
I’ll be optimistic and go for a 1-1 draw, which would see us through nicely
9. Finally, are you enjoying watching United and their fans suffer their current situation?
I’m not really enjoying it, because I don’t really believe you are suffering. For me it was inevitable once Ferguson left that there would be a wobble of sorts. United will always bounce back though, it’s just a matter of time. I do understand that if you are of the “Fergie generation” and all you know is success, you are obviously shocked by your current standing. But being a Sunderland fan and having sat through some thoroughly abysmal seasons, including the 15 point 2005/06 campaign, if we finished 7th, where you are now, it would equal our highest ever PL league finish, and it would be a total dream. I guess it’s all about perspective though.