WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) takes a look at bottom side Sunderland's home clash with 20-game unbeaten Manchester United.
Sunderland v Manchester United | Sunday 13:30 | Sky Sports 1
Sunderland host Manchester United on Sunday, they start the day 10 points from safety. Luckily, for them, none of Hull, Swansea or Middlesbrough managed a victory on Saturday but it’s got to the stage where they can’t rely on their rivals to slip up, picking up points is a must.
We have become accustomed to the Black Cat’s great escapes over the last five years but the beginning of the momentum in those miraculous recoveries has typically started by now, and they aren’t usually a whole 10 points adrift either.
All But Down
I had been thinking all season that they would pull it off again but it’s grown closer to a mathematical impossibility after the defeats at Watford and Leicester.
The last two seasons Sunderland had 26 points at the thirty game mark, in 2013/14 they had 25 points and in 2012/13 they were on 31. So, to be on 20 points after 30 games this term, they are as good as down.
David Moyes outburst in midweek won’t have done his mentality any good but their troubles are mainly on the pitch. Moyes’ men have scored in just of their last nine Premier League games. Manchester United are unbeaten in 20 in the league after Zlatan Ibrahimović’s last minute equaliser from the spot on Tuesday night.
As a result, at time of writing the Black Cats are a shade over 10/1 to win in places. Normally I would look towards getting with the underdogs on the Asian Handicap but I can’t made any sort of case for them. I can however make a case for the Red Devils who could yet land themselves a Champions League spot.
Solid If Uninspiring
United would be one behind their City rivals, whom currently occupy fourth, if they won both of their games in hand. Their problem this season has been an inability to kill off games, drawing 12 times. However, nine of those stalemates have come at Old Trafford. On their travels, they’ve actually won eight out of 13 games.
Only Spurs (22) have conceded fewer than Jose Mourinho’s charges this season (24) and they share the best record for fewest defeats this season too, just three in 30 games. It seems United are close to getting it right, they just need to be more clinical and incisive with their forward play.
Sunderland have actually scored the last four times they’ve hosted Man United at the Stadium of Light but this is by far the best United defence we’ve seen since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Prior to that period, Manchester United had kept clean sheets on six of their last 10 Wearside trips this Millennium.
United’s betting partner, Marathonbet, go 99/100 that they keep a clean sheet. That’s by far the pick of the bunch for me. The ‘Win To Nil’ is priced at 11/10 but with Man United’s hankering for draws, that doesn’t interest me. Only seven of their 14 wins this season have been ‘To Nil’.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are out with injuries but Marcus Rojo has been solid this season and Eric Bailly is back in the swing of things. The centre-back pairing also have plenty of defensive options around them now that Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian are both available for selection.
Whatever combination of the above plus Daley Blind, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, they should have no problem keeping out a side that's bagged in just one of their last 10 fixtures in all competitions.
Sunderland v Manchester United- Under 0.5 Sunderland Goals (99/100 Marathonbet)