Manchester United vs Sunderland: Preview

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VidaA former United stalwart returns to Old Trafford this weekend (along with a few other familiar faces), bringing along with him a Sunderland team that have endured something of a yoyo start to the season. Yes Steve Bruce skippered the Reds to three Premier League titles once upon a time but he will be desperately hoping to outwit his former mentor in the opposing dugout come Saturday.

To get the ball rolling, the Black Cats haven’t won at the Theatre of Dreams in some 41 years. With eight wins on the bounce for the Reds heading into the game, anything but victory would surely be deemed a disappointing result.

Following the hard fought triumph over an aesthetically pleasing Wolfsburg on Wednesday, three points at home in the Premier League is certainly a must in order to keep things ticking over. Sunderland, on the other hand, were 5-2 winners against Wolves in their last outing, a deceptively flattering scoreline as I’m sure those who witnessed the encounter will testify.

The main bits of team news from a United perspective refers to opposite ends of the pitch. After putting in a steady shift without covering himself in glory against the German champions, Tomasz Kuszczak will have to settle for a place on the bench as Ben Foster resumes as Edwin van der Sar’s Premier League deputy. Michael Owen’s latest injury, meanwhile, will keep him out of action for the forthcoming round of international fixtures next weekend.

At the back you would envisage little change with Ferdinand and Vidic at centre-back and Patrice Evra and John O’Shea on either side of them.

Ryan Giggs’ cameo on Wednesday evening brought about his 150th career goal for United and the landmarks are coming around thick and fast as a strike against Sunderland will see him notch up his 100th Premier League goal. Your guess is as good as mine as to who Fergie may decide to play on Saturday (you’ve probably a better chance of predicting the lottery results in fairness) but given the current rotation policy and that we should be afforded plenty of space, expect Scholes and Fletcher to possibly start with Nani and Valencia on the flanks as Park remains doubtful with a virus.

That leaves Rooney and Berbatov to head up the attack, a partnership that is showing signs of flourishing and should come to life against the frailties of a Sunderland defence that is hardly up there with the best in the league.

The big decision Steve Bruce will have to make is whether to sit back and soak up pressure or attack United from the off and hope for the best. Whatever tact the one-time United captain decides to go with, Darren Bent will undoubtedly start having scored eight in his last nine Premier League starts.

Speaking to the media, Ferguson explained that he is hardly relishing the task of picking his team with so many players fighting fit and on top of their games at the moment.

“We’ve a strong squad. The problem with having everyone fit is picking the right team,” he is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

“Our two central midfielders – Michael Carrick and Anderson – were fantastic against Wolfsburg, and I thought Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes were outstanding at Stoke. It is giving me a real headache.”

The United boss went on to praise the managerial work of his former player and that he expects Sunderland to achieve big things with Bruce at the helm.

“He’s had experience of the other side, from down there scrapping at Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Birmingham, and the job he did at Wigan in his second spell there last time was fantastic, almost getting them into a European place,” Ferguson added.

“Now he’s had the chance to spend some money and he’s looking good. Steve’s galvanised the club already, and you can see something great happening there. Hopefully not against us on Saturday.”

On the other side of the fence, Bruce paid tribute to Ryan Giggs, a player he labels one of the greatest to have graced the Premier League.

“He started in 1993 and where are we now, 2009? Jesus. And to play at the level he has been doing, he has to be the greatest ever player to have played in the Premier League” he is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

“Not just because of his longevity but because he is playing for Manchester United and still getting man of the match awards.

“For me he is their best player, at his age as well.”

Saturday’s match will be the 13th time that Bruce has gone head-to-head with Sir Alex with the Scot possessing a record of ten wins and two draws to date. The former Birmingham City manager may fancy his chances more than ever before considering the form of Darren Bent but the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand haven’t been in opposition before now.

Anything but a comprehensive result will clearly be frowned upon and bar an absolutely unbelievable Sunderland performance a woefully poor United showing, a comfortable victory should prove the final outcome and put further pressure on Chelsea needing to gain a positive result against Liverpool the day after.

Prediction: 2-0

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534 Comments

  1. @Red Ranter: They deserve it RR because they go on and on and on with their sad song and dance and it really becomes frustrating not to mention annoying simply because in this case I can emphatically say without a question of a doubt that they are wrong. Does that stop them? No. So I desperately attempt through my snideness to elevate their awareness and make them wake up to the reality of the situation. I mean seriously RR, it’s bad enough what is being said to defend Foster but when we start criticizing the performance of Casillas in a game where he was absolutely awesome, well that called for some special artillery barrages from me. Wrong or not, I see your point and I will adhere to your wishes but in this case, there is no way I am falling back on my position or apologizing for my comments because, I’ve never been more right in my life. And sometimes unlike Barack Obama, one has to fight ignorance and stupidity rather than let it take over due to it’s will to rule and survive. 😀

  2. @Grognard: It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s right or wrong. You have been screaming from the rooftops at every given opportunity about the right to express what you want to say regardless whether you agree or not, and have blown several fuses when called ignorant or stupid. I’ve made every attempt to ensure people don’t call each other stupid/or make judgements on them based on difference of opinion. Now if you think they deserve it, you make it harder for me to defend you when you get attacked.

    Sometimes in the interest of free speech you need to bite your tongue, and if that’s too hard from you then I expect no self-righteous lecture on free speech from you the next time someone calls you stupid etc. Because with this rant you’ve made it hard for many people to buy into your ideals of free speech the next time you get violated.

    In short, you make it harder for yourself. That’s the irony.

  3. @Onkar: Mannone has some great qualities but he is also flawed in many areas like his positioning and his focus. I see what you are saying but the fact remains that goalkeeping is a special position on a football team like it is in the game of hockey. It’s often said in pro hockey that you cannot win the Stanley Cup without a great goaltender and that teams will go as far as their goaltender takes them.

    Goalkeepers are under the magnifying glass and in most cases are isolated so much so that their every move is seen, scrutinized and analyzed separate of the team’s play in front of them. A defender like Rio can screw up like he did against City but in the end the keeper is the last bastion of defense and how he plays the opponent and the ball is what is really going to be the judgment on that play. And lets face it, Foster made it very easy for Bellamy.

    When you are on a top club that magnification increases considerably and unlike playing for lesser teams, the pressure to perform and to do it immediately is great. It’s not just about having great physical tools. It’s about having focus, concentration , courage and great mental strength to handle the magnification and the intense pressures of playing that position for a top team contending for silverware. All keepers make mistakes, nobody is perfect. The thing however to remember is that limiting those mistakes is paramount. Learning from them and not repeating the same kind of mistake is the true indication that a keeper is coming around. With Foster I see the same mistakes over and over, too numerous to waste my time mentioning, but lets just talk about one here. His feeble attempt on the second Sunderland goal. A tough daunting task facing a player of the physical stature of Kenwyn Jones but a necessary evil. He needed to be decisive and aggressive, but he also needed to be smart. He was caught between two minds on whether to charge out and when he decided to do so, he chose the wrong tactic in dealing with the presence of such a tall and physically imposing presence as Jones. He chose to catch the ball in the air when in fact he should have gone through Jones and in the process punched the ball out of trouble. EVDS has been caught in similar situations many times and he may even react poorly on some of them but he usually makes the right decision on whether to catch or punch.

    Goalkeeping is an art and a science. It requires many strong fundamentals and disciplines to be the best. As Casillas has been talked about a lot, lets discuss what his strengths are. We know he is an exceptional shot stopper with fantastic reflexes. But his positioning is also fantastic and his aerial game, although not perfect, is pretty sound too. His distribution is good and he certainly doesn’t dally around trying to get the ball perfectly set on his right foot. His skills are sublime but where he goes from being a very good keeper into that small realm of truly world class extraordinary keepers is his management and intimidation in the box. He is constantly on his defenders, especially when they screw up. He screams and berates them and is very animated about it. Defenders may not like or appreciate this but trust me, it wakes them up and it forces them to concentrate more. Basically Casillas is a great foreman in a dangerous ship yard. He is constantly guiding and telling them what to do. He also is very physical and his presence is intimidating to many forwards who would rather keep their distance rather than confront him by playing to close to him.

    Why am I going on and on about this? Two reasons. To show how lacking in the necessary tools Ben Foster is and to emphasize that Manchester United should never ever ever settle for a keeper who is anything less than close to Casillas in class and ability. We are a world elite team. A team of that stature should never have to tolerate or audition a second class keeper or audition anyone who is not thought of as the second coming of Schmeichel. This I blame on Fergie as he like to try to go at things on the cheap. Well you can scrimp and save when pursuing a great keeper. He is the lynchpin of your defense and you Berlin Wall. Settling for anything but world class at that position is not acceptable, and should never be. Why, again it’s because we are Manchester United, not Hull City, not Newcastle, not Reading not Spurs. There are no auditions for a team like ours. When you are bought, you are told to play, you must perform, enough said. Dropping valuable points while auditioning a keeper is a calamitous habit to get in to and so far we have been pretty lucky. It’s not something we should ever get into the habit of doing.

  4. @Dan: That’s unfortunate for you Dan. Perhaps you should seek out some therapy to help you deal with it because often the truth hurts. And on this matter whether you like it or not my friend, I am the truth. Sorry if that offends you, but often we are too stubborn to take advice from others who are more in the know. I don’t go on and on about other positions like I do about goalkeepers simply because I do consider myself in the know. And I think I have given strong well thought out arguments with many clear examples that show my expertise in this manner. What have you shown? An abrasive defensive will to fight back with no ammunition to back up your claims other than a need to offend and defend a weak position. This makes me very condescending but the thing that you miss and that even Red Ranter misses is that I am able and willing to defend my position with proof and with intelligent debate. I can bring up examples and case studies that defend my position as well as my knowledge on the subject. What do you bring to this other than a volatile bitter attitude built on anger and frustration? If Foster is so great why then are you not able to point out his assets and strengths without the rest of the members on this blog from laughing out loud? Because you have no case or ammunition. He is a lost cause and that bugs the Hell out of you because you don’t like to lose and you do not like it when one of your beloved and sacred reserves fails with the main team. It makes you look bad as you so believe in them and so want them to pull off a coupe and take over the first team. Well in the case of Foster, the experiment is over Danny my boy. It’s KAPUT (I thought I would throw in a little German to lighten things up a bit since I know how much you love the Krauts).

    Lighten up mate, you sometimes get too angry when you are backed into an untenable position and lashing out at me because I know and believe to know something about the game isn’t going to make things better. Sure i can be arrogant and condescending and sure I have knowledge and experience in matters pertaining to the great game but rather than insult that and condemn it and me, why not embrace it and learn from what i have to offer. I often learn and take from those many who know more than me. As arrogant as I may seem, I am an information and knowledge junkie. I love to learn. Rather than be abrasive towards my knowledge, try respecting it for a change. Why is it so difficult for you to show a fellow member on this site that kind of respect, or is it because you assume all members are like you? Maybe I’m just a bit smarter than the average bear. I’ll tell you one thing about me mate. I say nothing and divulge nothing about things I am not sure about or know nothing about. So if this was a site talking about algebra or cricket, I’d be as silent as the night. Put that in your pipe and smoke it mate before you try to berate or question my intelligence or experience.

  5. And seeing that EVDS is back in training and will probably be back for the next game we play, I will officially end my controversial and often annoying rants about one Ben Foster from this point on. At least until the next time he plays. I have made my case and have backed it up to death. For those who are with me, thanks, for those who are not, my sympathies. Lets move on shall we. 😀

  6. @spizzy: They won’t seed ground but I definitely have placed my own special kind of fertilizer on their ground to better help them cope with their lost cause. 😉 😆 I agree though, lets end this Foster talk……………now that I got the last word in. 😆 😆

  7. @Grognard: For the umpteen time, I never mentioned Foster in this debate and time and again you bring him up.
    I never mentioned him, because I know that its like comparing Danny Welbeck to Rummenige (hit a chord? 😉 )
    You just can’t make the comparison with Casillas as they are on entirely different levels.
    And for the umpteen time, I agree that Casillas was absolutely phenomenal in this game. I nonetheless think he could have done better on both Sevilla goals.

    It does get tiring that every time you respond to an argument of mine you deform everything I ‘ve written. Wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve worked for some Ministry of Truth at some point in time..

  8. @Red Ranter: You are absolutely 100% right mate, but it is so hard because I am smarter than the average bear and my arrogance and concrete makes it difficult to tolerate ignorance and stupidity. I know it makes me sound terrible but I do not like debating with someone where I offer my examples and my case well thought out, planned and to the point and all they can come back with is your typical Al Bundy like response like “Oh yeah well a……your a chicken.”. I mean fight my fire with some fire. Have some concrete ammunition to throw back at me and make your point. But instead all I get are personal jibes and comments of intolerance and jealousy.

    As far as being snide and vicious, there is no other way to get through to certain people on this blog. They know no other language. Try to be polite and explain things to them from your point of view, they come back with their own snide remarks or shit all over your comments without having a clue or a concept of their own to fight back with. Frankly mate, when it comes to the topic of Ben Foster and goalkeeping, I have shown up to a gunfight with a cannon while some others have brought chopsticks. When you have that kind of an advantage, it’s pretty hard to keep your ordinance in check. All I ask is for them to be able to make their case with proof and intelligence as opposed to anger and misplaced loyalty. They can’t so as far as I am concerned, they deserve what they get.

    Which brings up the fact that I don’t like getting abused, so why would I then abuse others? You have seen the instances where i have been abused mate. Most of the time it comes from some troll looking for a fight or some guy like JB who is a control freak who likes to have a certain kind of control and decorum on this blog and does not appreciate someone who is overly opinionated and aggressive. In those cases yes, I am very sensitive and I hate the abuse, but getting abuse back for not being on the Ben Foster bandwagon, well that doesn’t bug me a bit. In fact I laugh at the Neanderthal attempts to get under my skin with the pro German accusations and the sarcasm etc. And most of those who are doing that to me are actually my mates on this site who I do respect and like, but who I often disagree with (are you reading this Dan and NicoQB?). we might get on each other’s nerves a bit but I for one respect them and like them even though quite often we just do not agree with each other.

    Those little spats are nothing mate, trust me. I honestly do have a much thicker skin then I had before I left on my walkabout a few months back. I am who I am and I cannot change my views or my way of debating, but I do take abuse better. Oh I might dish it out, but I still take it better than I used to. Anyway, sorry for stressing you out. As far as Ben Foster is concerned, I am finished debating because I think we are finished having to see him embarrass himself and the team in the process.

  9. @NicoQB: Fair enough mate. I still think that you are wrong regarding Casillas. He never made any mistakes in that game as I see them. If he is to blame for anything, it’s not taking a few of his defenders out back to the woodshed after the game and kicking the crap out of them. Those short and fast crosses into the box are a menace and very difficult for a goalkeeper to contend with, especially when the defenders are asleep. On both goals he was left to defend with his reflexes and at that close a point blank range, you just can’t stop them all the time. Yes he could have tried to come out and meet them but they were short in nature and fast crosses, not lobs like the one Jones scored on for Sunderland. That is the big difference. Anyway, I get you and although we can disagree on this, I do see where you are coming from and as always, respect your opinion. 🙂

  10. @Grognard: You may think in your heart that you’re smarter than many people, but if you say that out loud you will only come across as a pompous asshole in most people’s eyes — however sincere your intent may be. If you want people to listen to your views and be on your side, a little humility will go a long way. Getting your point across is often an art, and from your history here, it doesn’t seem like you’ve mastered that part of it enough. And I’m not saying this to put you down or anything. You’re not alone here. I’d say even the likes of Dan do lose their cool when it comes to certain players. But it never helps, if you think about it.

    You are what you are, but if you want acceptance like you’ve always admitted you wanted, you need to drop that arrogant streak, however much its hard for you. I’ve been through countless situations like that in the past and I can attest that showing arrogance, or saying you are supremely intelligent only makes people close their minds towards you. (The first instinct will be “who’s this smart ass”. You will get nowhere.) If you think snide remarks get your point across, you are mistaken. They only aggravate; they never solve the problem.

    That’s all I have to say on this. No one cares if anyone is a post doctorate in the art of pitch preparation on the internet — as hard as it might sound. If someone thinks the other is talking shite in their view they won’t care about the qualifications of the person who’s sharing their opinion. It’s a hard world out there, and more often than not, getting people to see your viewpoint can only be done in a calm manner. And if they don’t agree, drop it and move on. Like what I’ve done. I’ve consciously made an attempt to stay away from the Foster debate because it’s not a debate anymore.

  11. @CraigMc: That is soo true…. I for one agree…. Instead, let’s start a Silva for Nani Debate.
    Alright for a start.
    5 Reasons why Silva is MUCH better than Nani. Start Guys. 😎

  12. For the sake of starting another argument…..the worst player in our first XI is Tony Valencia. He is so anonymous in games than no-one on this blog even bothers to discuss him. But I for one feel short changed that we got £80 million this summer and wasted 1/4 of it on Valencia!!!

  13. @colver: Couldn’t agree with you more mate! Lets hope he proves us all wrong, but to me he is an 18 million one dimentional player! Who is advising SAF on these players he is bringing in????? Makes me wonder 😯 .

  14. @Footy4Eddy: ??? You want a New threat 😀 . Would that be a terrorist, gangland, or a blonde/brunette with the full body armour? 😆 .

  15. @Red Ranter: Oh its the toddler quip for sure. More behaving like toddlers though than actually being one. We do have our toddler moments though – don’t we? 😆 .

  16. @CraigMc: Valencia is better than Park. He can defend, he is strong and quick. And he always seems to get a cross in! Of cource I would rather have Ashley Young on one side, and Nani on the other, but I cant always have my wish can I? 😉

  17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWPO1FcorNw&feature=fvw

    When I watch thise video, I remember the gap Valencia has to fill and how much we miss this magican. He was the God of football, and will forever be looked at as the best footballer ever to have lived. Valencia wont replace him, but I still think Ashley young would be a better buy… 😐 Him and Nani on the wings would certanly be a great combo to take over for Ronny.

  18. @Footy4Eddy: Ashley Young was shite mate in the game against the pity – and that all through the game. SAF wanted Lennon, whom when on his game is magic 😀 .

  19. @CraigMc: I prefer Ashely Young. I believe a midfield containing him, Nani, Anderson and Ljajic could prove to be one of the best in the future. Two simply magical wingers, and two great box-to-box midfielders. Dont like Lennon, he like Valencia seems very one dimensional…

  20. @Johnsom33: I for one am through with the debate. If it makes me come across like a pompous asshole to try to fill their minds with proof and facts, it’s clearly not worth my time. You cannot win on this page because stupidity is so often tolerated while intelligence is insulted and called pompous. I give up, what the fuck is the point. Let the morons have their little Foster fest. Yes Foster is the best, he’s world class, he’s that cat’s meow, Groovy Baby!. 🙄

  21. Great! Now that we’ve established everyone’s through with the Foster debate, let’s all move on to the newer thread. Yes, it’s up, albeit a smaller one.

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