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    Boxing Day Match Preview - Manchester United vs Sunderland (Team Lineups, Injury Updates and Breaking News)

    David Moyes makes his long-awaited return to Old Trafford as Manchester United host Sunderland on Boxing Day. The game kicks off at 1500 GMT, and is not being televised in the United Kingdom.

    Both teams come into this fixture in fine form, despite equally missing out on their desired standings in the Premier League table.

    Manchester United

    Manchester United currently lie in sixth, which is well below expectation for their fans. Nevertheless, the Red Devils have won their last three Premier League games, and if their form continues, they may sneak into the top four reasonably soon. 
    Arsenal, who are currently in that desired fourth position, are only four points ahead of United, and if Mourinho’s men can continue their winning run over the Christmas period, we may see a very different set of standings come January. 
    Winning against Sunderland on Monday will enable them to be another step closer to qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League, and as a result, fans will be hoping for their attacking force to dominate once more.
    This may be likely, as Swede striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in tremendous form recently, scoring a fantastic seven goals in his last seven league appearances.

    Above: Zlatan Ibrahimovic wheels away in celebration after scoring for United on Saturday against West Brom.


    Sunderland remain in the relegation zone, however, their fine form over recent weeks has seen them lift off the bottom of the table to eighteenth position. Magnificently, they have won twelve points out of a possible twenty-one in their last seven games. This is a fantastic improvement for a side who only managed to score one point in the seven fixtures previous.

    The club's fans have one player in particular to thank for this vast improvement in results:
    Jermain Defoe has been in tantalising form, scoring eight Premier League goals this season. He remains by far Sunderland's most influential player, and as a result, Manchester United may have to change their tactics some what in order to control the thirty-four year old. Furthermore, defender, Patrick van Aanholt has made headlines after scoring the winner against Watford last Saturday. This increases his tally to three league goals this season, which is a real shock coming from a player in a defensive position.

    Above: Jermain Defoe strikes the ball past Christian Fuchs in 2-1 win against Leicester City on December 3rd.

    Manager Quotes

    Mourinho, who has faced The Black Cats multiple times in his career as a manager, has mixed feelings when it comes to playing against them once more:

    "They score one goal and they win, they defend a lot, they defend well, they are winning and in the last 20 minutes they bring defenders in, they don't care what people say, what people think, they just want to win."

    The Portuguese manager was also asked about his confidence regarding Manchester United's top four ambitions. José subsequently answered:

    "So let's see where we finish, I don't want to say fourth, because I think we can do better than fourth... "But we have the risk of not doing fourth because the competition is so hard and the top teams have the same ambitions as we have."

    From Mourinho's comments we are demonstrated that confidence to reach the club's goals this season is high, however, there is a strong belief to not underestimate any opposition. From this, United fans should remain confident, but at the same time value the strength of all teams that are faced, because we all know how unpredictable football can be. As a prime example, last season, Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City were seen as 5000-1 favourites for the Premier League title, and despite the odds being strongly against them, they are now the reigning champions. 

    Meanwhile, Sunderland boss David Moyes commented on his previous reign at Old Trafford and the experience that he came away with: 

    "I was definitely unfairly treated. Over the piece, other managers have come and gone and it's been difficult for them as well. I think it would have taken whoever it was time to change the squad around."

    Despite being, in Moyes' opinion, unfairly treated at the club, he later added:

    "I enjoyed being at Manchester United. It was a great football club, it really was."

    Manchester United fans would agree with the fact that being the manager of the club should definitely be an enjoyable experience, and a real privilege. However, some feel that the Scotsman should have never have even been in contention for the role, and should have therefore never have even had the opportunity to fill such a role. 

    Injury News

    Coming into the fixture, the home side have a few injury doubts as well as suspensions. Eric Bailly remains on the sidelines with the knee injury he picked up against Chelsea in November, however, he may have a return reasonably soon as he has started to resume full training with the rest of the squad. 
    Henrikh Mkhitaryan may start, but this is unlikely as he has had little time to recover from his ankle injury. The Armenian international will most likely be on the bench, but may feature towards the end of the match as an impact substitute.
    Antonio Valencia will not play due to a one match suspension that he received last weekend. Italian full back Matteo Darmian is likely to start as a replacement.
    Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw may make their returns as they have made a return to full training in the last few weeks. Both players have suffered long-term injuries this season, as well as in the past, but Manchester United fans may see a glimpse of the defensive stars once more; that is if José Mourinho decides to put them in his lineup.

    David Moyes' side come into this match topping the league's injury list with nine.
    The most missed player is likely to be Duncan Watmore, who has been described highly by pundits as a 'wonderkid'. The teenager is continuing his spell on the sidelines with a knee injury and consequently will not feature against The Red Devils.
    German midfielder Jan Kirchhoff is also continuing his spell on the sidelines and has not yet received a predicted return date.
    Jan Manquillo and Steven Pienaar are both unlikely to start, but may return to the bench after they suffered knocks last weekend. 
    English midfielders Jack Rodwell and Lee Cattermole are still unavailable with muscular injuries. Rodwell may return for The Black Cats against Burnley next Saturday. However, unfortunately for Moyes, Cattermole is unlikely to play again until early March.
    Finally, Billy Jones isn't ready for selection against Manchester United due to a muscle based injury. His return date has not yet been specified by the club.

    Key Facts (Source: Opta)

    • Manchester United have lost just one of their last 24 top-flight home games against the Black Cats, this came in May 2014 (W16 D7).

    • Sunderland haven't beaten Manchester United in successive top-flight games since 1951 (three in a row). 

    • Manchester United have won more Premier League games on Boxing Day than any other team since records began in 1991 (18). 
    • Jermain Defoe has scored six times on Boxing Day in the Premier League, more than any current player in the division. The record scorer on Boxing Day in Premier League history is Robbie Fowler (9).
    • This will be the third time in their last 10 Premier League Boxing Day matches that the Black Cats have faced Manchester United; losing to them twice in 2007 (0-4) and 2010 (0-2).
    • Since the start of November, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored seven goals from just eight shots on target in the Premier League.
    • Ibrahimovic has scored 40 goals in the month of December within the 'big five' European Leagues since he joined Juventus in 2004-05; his best goal tally in a single month.
    • Manchester United are 6th place in the Premier League table at Christmas - only the second time in the Premier League era that they are outside the top five on this date after 2013-14 (8th).
    • Since 2014-15 in the Premier League, Man Utd have won 64% of the 44 matches that Michael Carrick has started, compared to 39% of the 49 games that he hasn't.
    • David Moyes managed to win 50% of his games in the Premier League as Manchester United manager, a higher ratio than what Jose Mourinho has achieved at the club so far (47%).

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    Item Reviewed: Boxing Day Match Preview - Manchester United vs Sunderland (Team Lineups, Injury Updates and Breaking News) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Charlie Haffenden
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