Manchester United aiming to get season on track at Sunderland
By Ian Palmer
Manchester United will head over to the Stadium of Light on Sunday, August 24 to take on Sunderland in an important English Premier League matchup. United, who struggled to a seventh-place finish under manager David Moyes last season are 0-1 under new boss Louis van Gaal after dropping their season opener 2-1 to Swansea City at home at Old Trafford on August 16.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet managed to just keep his squad afloat last campaign by earning enough points during the final few weeks to avoid relegation to the second-tier Championship League. Big late-season away wins over Chelsea and Man United certainly helped him out along with a draw against league champions Manchester City. However, Sunderland were brutal at home last campaign with just five wins in their 19 home contests.
The northeast team got off to a decent start in the opening weekend of the 2014/15 season with a 2-2 draw in Birmingham against West Bromwich Albion. Overall stretching back to last season, Sunderland has lost just once in their past seven matches. However, they’ve won just two of their last six contests at home. Poyet tried to strengthen his squad during the summer with the addition of goaltender Costel Pantilimon and defenders Billy Jones and Santiago Vergini. He also signed Jack Rodwell, Jordi Gomez, Will Buckley, and Patrick van Aanholt.
Man United lost several veteran defenders recently as Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic all left the club in the transfer window. In addition, winger Nani was sent out on loan to Sporting Lisbon for the season. Van Gaal made a few signings as he added Argentine international defender Marcos Rojo, English international defender Luke Shaw and Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera.
Shaw is out for a month with an injury though and he joins a long list of United players on the sidelines. Others who are out of action include defenders Jonny Evans and Antonio Valencia, midfielders Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini , and forward Danny Welbeck. There is a little light at the end of the tunnel though since their top scorer, Dutch international Robin van Persie is expected back in the lineup and Valencia and Evans could possibly dress.
For all of United’s struggles in 2013/14, the team still had the fourth-best road record in the 20-team league with 10 wins in 19 games. However, all 10 victories came against bottom-10 clubs. Overall, United has just one win in their past four league contests and are winless in their last three road games. Man United faced Sunderland four times in all competitions last season and they each won twice, once at home and once on the road. Sunderland hasn’t managed to beat United in their last 12 league visits though with United also winning six of their last seven at the Stadium of Light.
With players like Van Persie, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney in the lineup, Man United should win this game quite easily on paper, but Sunderland always give them a rough time of it, even if they usually end up losing. Fans should expect another close contest here.