Like the burst pipe in the Utd dressing room which disrupted the start of the game at the Stadium of Light earlier this year, some media outlets started to spout sewage as they predicted gloom and doom in the aftermath of the match, only the 7th of the season. Fergie said he was satisfied with a point as Man Utd stumbled to their fourth away draw of the season and were still looking for a win outside Old Trafford.
We were all probably bemused by the gaffer’s decision to drop Berbatov, who then came on at half-time, but Sunderland, currently 6th, have been impressive this season. They utterly dominated United and were unlucky not to win. Former Red Devil, Steve Bruce has fashioned a young team into one which could challenge for European places. We should also be thankful to him for effectively giving United loanee, Danny Welbeck his big break, which has paid off handsomely for the youngster as well as for Sunderland. They have also taken points off Chelsea (great win at Stamford Bridge) and drew against Arsenal for us (also beating Man City and drawing against Spurs)! Sunderland will definitely attack us on Sunday as they are an ambitious side who won’t sit back and defend like a lot of teams do at OT.
On our side, we should not be too worried. I know we looked wretched in that first half at Sunderland. But somehow keeping a clean sheet in such a match after conceding 7 in 3 previous away matches offered a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The turning point for our away form was the next match where we beat a resilient Stoke side. Since then, United have got back on track and currently sit at the top of the Premier League, 2 points ahead of Arsenal, 3 ahead of Chelsea and with a game in hand. So, we don’t have to worry about the opponent or indeed injuries as Scholes, O’Shea and long-term casualty Valencia are the only players out. Owen is fit to feature for United and will probably be on the bench while Berbatov will be hoping for a start after not playing at all against Arsenal. Sunderland have some problems at the back, but will still provide a real test. We could just be happy Welbeck isn’t starting!
We need to start dispatching teams without conceding late goals and missing penalties (if only for the health of the fans). We also need to maintain our home form (best in the league) as well as our scoring (best attack in the league). Let’s put ourselves in a decent position for the second half of the season where we normally go up another gear.
Have you voted in our player of the year poll?