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Match Preview: Sunderland vs Manchester United

Sunderland vs Manchester United
Date: 30th March, 2013
Venue: Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Referee: Kevin Friend
Kick off time: 18:15 IST, 12:45 GMT

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is congratulated by Tom Cleverley of Manchester United after he scored the third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United is congratulated by Tom Cleverley of Manchester United after he scored the third goal during the Barclays Premier League against Sunderland at Old Trafford on December 15, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Getty Images)

Manchester United will have bitter memories of The Stadium of Light, as they travel there on Saturday in a potential pitfall, ahead of their FA Cup replay against Chelsea. After being unceremoniously knocked out of the Champions League and giving up a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 in the FA Cup, United’s season began to hit a rocky patch and the 1-0 scrappy win against Reading did nothing to state the contrary. Last season, in a matter of seconds United had lost their title to Manchester City in spite of beating Sunderland and Sir Alex Ferguson will be trying his best to ensure that the memory doesn’t come back to haunt his side. This time though, United have a near unassailable 15-point lead at the top of the table and with City faltering time and again, the title is all but in the Red Devils’ grasp.

Sunderland have been in a bad situation all season and it will be interesting to see how Martin O’Neill manages to lift his side’s spirits against the league leaders. In the reverse fixture United had romped home 3-1 thanks to goals from Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney. Sunderland have beaten United only once in the Premier League era and it would take something of a miracle for that to change, given that United haven’t lost on the road since their October loss to Norwich.

Team News

Sunderland

After suffering a collapse of sorts in March, Sunderland’s season has been in a downward  spiral. They are now only 4 points above the relegation zone, with Wigan in 18th place having a game in hand. With Steven Fletcher injured it seems like nothing can prevent the Black Cats from facing the drop, given their abject run of form. The manager will have to tinker with his starting lineup and come up with the perfect combination in order to thwart United’s bid for title no. 20. They will need to count on Connor Wickham and Danny Graham now, but still it would be a true heist if Martin O’Neill can pull this one off.

Manchester United

United have been in dodgy form off late and Sir Alex will be looking to set that straight in order to avoid a capitulation like last season. He can easily field two completely different XI’s against Sunderland and then in the FA Cup game against Chelsea and will look to do so in order to keep his key players fresh. RVP has gone missing off late in the Premier League, but his brace for the Netherlands mid-week will have bolstered his confidence. He will be raring to go and it will be interesting to see if the manager plays his talisman or keeps him for the Chelsea game. Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Paul Scholes have all returned and are expected to start this game.

Injuries and Suspensions:

Sunderland

Untitled

Manchester United

Only Darren Fletcher (chronic bowel movement) is the only long-term casualty.

Sunderland(4-5-1):Expected Lineups:

Mignolet;  Gardner, Bramble, O’Shea, Colback;  Johnson, Vaughan, Ndiaye, Larsson, Sessegnon;  Graham
Manchester United (4-4-1-1):
Lindegaard; Jones, Smalling, Evans, Buttner; Young, Anderson, Cleverley, Valencia; Welbeck; Chicharito

Form Guide:

Sunderland (DLDLL)

17th Mar, 2013:  Sunderland 1-1 Norwich (EPL)
9th Mar, 2013:  QPR 3-1 Sunderland (EPL)
2nd Mar, 2013:  Sunderland 2-2 Fulham (EPL)
23rd Feb, 2013:  West Brom 2-1 Sunderland (EPL)
9th Feb, 2013:   Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal (EPL)

Manchester United (WDLWW)

16th Mar, 2013: Man United 1-0 Reading (EPL)
10th Mar, 2013: Man United 2-2 Chelsea (FA Cup)
5th Mar, 2013: Man United 1-2 Real Madrid (UCL)
2nd Mar, 2013: Man United 4-0 Norwich (EPL)
23rd Feb, 2013: QPR 0-2 Man United (EPL)

Previous Meetings:

15th Dec, 2012: Man United 3-1 Sunderland (EPL)
13th May, 2012: Sunderland 0-1 Man United (EPL)

Prediction: Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United

Telecast: Star Sports and ESPN HD

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