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Sunderland vs Manchester United: Preview, Live stream and TV channel info, Team News, Prediction

Manchester United travel to face a Sunderland side looking to ease their relegation fears with a win.

Defoe celebrates his goal against Liverpool
Defoe celebrates his goal against Liverpool.

This weekend’s early kick-off sees fifth placed Manchester United travel to the Stadium of Light in Wearside to face relegation-threatened Sunderland. While Louis van Gaal’s men are still seeking to string a run of winning form together, Black Cats’ boss Sam Allardyce realises that his side are running out of games in their bid to pull off yet another miraculous escape from the drop. Their off-field problems haven’t helped their cause either, with Adam Johnson receiving his marching orders after he pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child. A victory over the 20-time Premier League giants would not just clear the clouds hanging over the Black Cats following Johnson’s sacking, but would also be a massive boost in their fight against relegation from the top-tier.

When United last travelled to the north-east, they were involved in a nail-biting 3-3 draw with Sunderland’s Tyneside rivals Newcastle United. Will this be something similar, or will Manchester United’s quality outshine Sunderland’s resistance?

Kick-Off and Live Telecast

Channel : Star Sports 4, Star Sports 4 HD

Live Stream: www.starsports.com

Kick-Off : Saturday, 13th February 2016 – 1815 IST (1245 BST)

Venue : Stadium of Light

Team News

Sunderland will have to compete to stay in the Premier League without Adam Johnson, who had his contract terminated by the club after admitting to counts of sexual activity with a minor. Fabio Borini has recovered from a virus, while right-back Billy Jones is a doubt after coming off injured in the Black Cats’ 2-2 draw at Anfield last week. Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul and Duncan Watmore all miss out.

Manchester United welcome striker Will Keane to the Matchday squad after impressing in United’s U-21 game against neighbours Manchester City. Guillermo Varela, Phil Jones and Adnan Januzaj all suffered injuries playing for the U21s and are doubtful. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are long-term absentees.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Team Form

Louis van Gaal all smiles at a press conference
Louis van Gaal all smiles at a press conference.

Sunderland’s relegation woes were lightened after an impressive comeback from 2-0 down to earn a point against a Klopp-less Liverpool at Anfield. Though their defence continues to leak, it is their high attacking index that is keeping them in the hunt at present. New signing Wahbi Khazri was on fire in the latter stages of the Liverpool game, whereas veteran striker Jermain Defoe’s goals have turned a few certain defeats into draws.

Big Sam – well renowned for getting teams out of the relegation dogfight – has struggled to have the desired impact since taking over as manager from Dick Advocaat. His defence has been his biggest headache, failing to keep a clean sheet since 28 November. Jan Kirchhoff has had a couple of horrible moments since joining them from Bayern Munich in the winter transfer window. He, Lamine Kone and ex-Manchester United centre-back John O’Shea must find a way to stem the flow of goals by via. a compact defence and better communication when it comes to playing the offside trap and man-marking.

Against a team of the calibre of Manchester United, the defenders aren’t going to have much hope of holding on to a clean sheet, but can their forwards engineer a result against the Red Devils?

Last 5 games (All Competitions): D-L-D-L-W (Most Recent : Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland)

Manchester United have lost just once in 9 games, but a couple of draws from seemingly won games – most recently against Chelsea and against Newcastle United in January – means that Louis van Gaal’s side are effectively 7 points off the top 4 (keeping goal-difference in mind) with just 13 games remaining and 4 of those against teams currently placed above them in the table. A horrible December – where they lost to relegation candidates Bournemouth and Norwich and failed to win even a single game in any competition – may well come back to bite them come the end of the season.

Performances, however, have improved since the turn of the year and Louis van Gaal will be relieved to see that build-ups are being given the finishing touch by the strikers, something that was missing a couple of months back. Wayne Rooney, in particular, was United’s greatest gainer from Manchester United’s mini-revival, with 7 goals scored since the turn of the year. Anthony Martial took Branislav Ivanovic and Phil Bardsley for a ride in recent games, and van Gaal will hope his impact does not waver away as the season progresses.

With league games running out and United facing a tough run-in, 3 points at the Stadium of Light will be absolutely critical if they want to keep in touch with the Champions league qualification spots. With the manager’s position under constant scrutiny and rumours that Jose Mourinho has reportedly agreed to take over the reins at Old Trafford from next season, can United shift the media attention surrounding the club to on-field performances rather than off-field speculations?

Last 5 games (All Competitions): D-W-W-L-W (Most Recent : Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United)

Key Stats

Head-to-Head

1. Sunderland have won just one out of their last 27 league meetings with Manchester United, a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in 2014 when Ryan Giggs was in temporary charge.

  1. Their last league victory over Manchester United at home was a 2-1 victory at their old Roker Park ground in March 1997.
  2. However, they did beat United 2-1 at the Stadium of Light in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final tie in 2014.

Sunderland

1. Sunderland have won just 2 out of their last 11 league games, including one victory in their last 5 at the Stadium of Light – against basement club Aston Villa. They have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of these 11 games.

  1. Jermain Defoe has scored six goals in his last six league appearances for Sunderland.
  2. They have failed to win even a single game against opponents currently in the top half of the table. (D2, L11)

Manchester United

1. United have lost just once in 8 games in all competitions in 2016 and are unbeaten away from Old Trafford since Boxing Day.

  1. However, they have won only 3 out of their last 12 league games, including just one victory in their last 6 league games on the road – a 1-0 victory at Anfield.
  2. Louis van Gaal's side have kept 12 clean sheets this season - a joint-league high along with Arsenal. 
  3. Marouane Fellaini is set to make his 200th Premier League appearance.

Key Battle

Jermain Defoe vs Chris Smalling

Jermain Defoe has been Sunderland’s saviour in recent games – his goals have come at crucial times and bailed out his side’s abysmal defence. United centre-back Chris Smalling – who has been terrific this season – knows that he cannot afford to give the veteran English striker any space to get a shot away – like Mamadou Sakho allowed him to do so for his late equaliser at Anfield. Closing out the gaps and interrupting the partnership between Defoe and wingers Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini will be a good day’s work for the 26-year old.

Predictions

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United

Though Sunderland have been improving, one does not see this as a fixture they can get anything out of. Manchester United’s ruthlessness in attack is bound to overwhelm Sunderland’s resistance 9 times out of 10, and it looks like that is how the 90 minutes at the Stadium of Light will unfold on Saturday afternoon.

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