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    Manchester United vs Sunderland

    The Louis Van Gaal revolution continues this week as they entertain an out of sorts Sunderland side at Old Trafford.

    The Manchester giants go into the game off a 2-1 defeat away to Swansea and winning three as well as losing two of their last six games conceding six goals but scoring ten. However, United fans can draw confidence from the fact that they have won five of their last six games at home as they are beginning to make Old Trafford the fortress it once was.

    In comparison, Gus Poyet and his men have only won one game as well as losing three of their last six as they try to improve their form to avoid a relegation dog fight as the season draws to a close. In addition, The Black Cats have won one of their last six away games which was a derby win against bitter rivals Newcastle. With this in mind and The Red Devils good form at home, there is not much for the visitors to be optimistic about.

    It is not all doom and gloom for the Wearsiders though, they can draw confidence from the corresponding fixture last season when they won 1-0 thanks a first half Seb Larsson goal. Furthermore, back in August the game finished 1-1 after goals from Mata and Rodwell.

    Sunderland will be keeping an eye on the Old Trafford injury table as the reliable Carrick and Van Persie are both doubts also giving the away team a little more hope. However, Sunderland also have injury concerns over Billy Jones, Will Buckley and Emanuelle Giaccherini but will be confident of putting out a strong team against a squad currently in the top four.

    With the home team expected to dominate possession, Sunderland will need to stay compact and not leave spaces for the likes of Di Maria to make runs into. Furthermore, to be successful they may opt to play a high pressure game not allowing the opposition time on the ball. If this can be achieved, it will prevent United dictating the tempo and disrupt their play to stop them getting into their rhythm. Moreover, to really get at United quick and incisive counter attacking will be essential. This will require regaining possession as often as possible especially if it can be done high up the pitch not allowing Van Gaal’s team to get numbers back. However, after the success Manchester United had against West Ham by using Felliani to take a more direct route, Sunderland will have to be wary of having a high pressure approach as United may revert back to using more long balls.

    On the other hand, the team from Manchester will need to set a good tempo from the start. Many teams will go to Old Trafford and be happy to sit back and play a counter attacking game. With this in mind, if the home team can play at pace and move the ball about with purpose and keep possession it will not take long for spaces to appear in this Sunderland team as they begin to tire. With Sunderland expected to get everyone behind the ball, United may get success from playing the ball into the strikers feet early then getting people around them such as the pace of Di Maria to penetrate a possible stubborn defence. However, with Rooney  possibly being deployed in midfield and Van Persie likely to miss the game, the burden of holding up play and bringing others in may go to the out of form Falcao who has not proven up to the task thus far.

    This game is of vital importance to both teams for totally different reasons. Defeat for Sunderland could draw them closer to the bottom three if others results go against them. For Manchester United, a win is a must in their quest for a Champions League place with Southampton, Tottenham and Liverpool all hovering just below them waiting to pounce. Defeat for the former champions will leave them possibly being squeezed out of the top four as other teams such as Liverpool are coming into form. Surely it is unthinkable that the superstars of Manchester United will miss out on Champions League qualification for a second successive year. Watch this space.

    Sunderland player to watch: Adam Johnson
    Manchester United player to watch: Wayne Rooney
    Score prediction: Man United 2-0 Sunderland 
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    Item Reviewed: Manchester United vs Sunderland Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Arun Gray
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