Manchester United looked subdued in their 2-0 win over Swansea last weekend. They were in a strange position, grinding through the gears to get the result they needed to retain any chance of winning the title. Those three points mean that they go to the Stadium of Light needing three points and hoping for an upset at the Etihad.
I've played in games like this. On the final day in 1999, we were still in with a shout when we played Aston Villa at Highbury, knowing that a win for United against Tottenham would give them the title. Having your destiny out of your hands refocuses you on your job. Against Villa we were determined to keep our side of the bargain because we would never have forgiven ourselves if we'd lost and then discovered Spurs had won. In the end, we won and so did United but not before news of a Les Ferdinand goal at Old Trafford had filtered around our ground and given us hope. You have to stick to your own task and Sir Alex knows that better than anybody.
The United boss will make sure his men put in an improved performance this Sunday. Opta point out that that they've lost their last two on the road, both 1-0, but I'm also reminded that they have a great record against Sunderland, winning 14 of the last 19 between the clubs. Martin O'Neill has done a good job since taking over but Sunderland's resurgence has fizzled out and they are without a win in seven.
I don't anticipate a lot of goals in the match and United will have to battle. Eleventh in the table, you might think Sunderland have little to play for but the likes of John O'Shea and Phil Bardsley will be keen to compete against their old club, as will Fraizer Campbell if he plays. In midfield, Lee Cattermole has the joint-most bookings in the Premier League so we could see a lively contest between him and Paul Scholes. I'll back United to prevail but the hosts can hold out until the second half so I'll take Draw/Man Utd too.
Under 1.5 Goals /Correct Score
United have failed to score in their last two away games. It's always good to see the emergence of an English striker, especially in an international tournament year, so I'm encouraged by Danny Wellbeck's performances this season. However, that's left Javier Hernandez struggling to get in the team after a brilliant first season last term. Consequently, United's attack hasn't always flowed as well as it might. Ashley Young has made a good start to his Old Trafford career and Wayne Rooney has been amazing but Martin O'Neill is a very smart tactician and, with the help of his ex-United defenders, I believe Sunderland can contain the visitors. According to Opta, two goals in this game will mean United become only the fourth team in Premier League history to reach over 90 goals in a season. I don't expect that to happen and I'm backing a 1-0 away win.
Back Draw/Man Utd @ 5.04/1
Back Under 1.5 goals @ 5.04/1
Back 0-1 @ 9.08/1
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