Wayne Rooney scores for Manchester United against Sunderland
One of them is a club in apparent turmoil that are closer to the relegation zone than where their fans expect them to be, the other – well, you can pick that. Manchester United travel to Sunderland today, hoping for a better performance than in the 4-1 drumming to Manchester City and the 2-1 home defeat to West Brom.
United face a Sunderland side that has only picked up a single point under a short and explosive Paulo Di Canio reign. In the past five meetings at the Stadium of lights, United have won four and drawn one – although, these have all been low scoring games. The English champions last lost to Sunderland in the 96/97 season, following and European Cup away tie.
David Moyes will be looking to build on the 1-1 draw in the week and will surely reunite Wayne Rooney with Robin van Persie. We have a great View from the opposition for you, where we talk Paulo Di Canio, Welbeck’s road to the United first team and Duncan Watmore.
1) What are your thoughts on the Di Canio sacking? Should he have been appointed in the first place and if so, surely they should have backed him?
Let’s make no qualms about it, Di Canio’s time on Wearside was always going to end in tears, whether it was as swiftly as it did indeed transpire, or a further few months, or even years down the line. The bloke is too much of an emotional, pantomime character not to expect anything different.
However, at the time, he was the right man for the job and Ellis Short’s gamble paid off with the Italian just about securing the club’s Premier League status. Make no mistake, under Martin O’Neill, Sunderland were a side that were destined for the drop.
Undoubtedly the club should have taken stock in the summer and in hindsight awarding Di Canio with a contract extension was a mistake, but he spun a great yarn, which seemingly had the Sunderland board convinced as well as the fans.
Di Canio’s insistence on professionalism and implementation of double training standards, at first, seemed a refreshing approach. It was a widely held belief that a lot of players in this squad simply were not performing and Di Canio’s brash attempt to whip them into shape did garner some immediate rewards with back-to-back victories over Newcastle and Everton effectively securing the club’s top flight status.
However, maintaining such an environment where excessive scrutiny is poured on every mistake, laughter effectively banned on the training field and many other crazy regulations that he put in place and policed with heavy fines, was simply not a long term method for success and the players seemingly quickly grew sick of Di Canio’s regime.
Where this leave us now however is with a situation where many fans are wondering who is actually in charge of this club? It wasn’t results that got Di Canio sacked, it was the players. This is a worrying level of player power. That said, it is now up to those players to prove they were right and start putting some points on the board sooner rather than later.
2) United are also under fire of late, is this the best time to play the Champions or are you expecting a backlash?
I suspect, and while hindsight is a fantastic thing, that last weekend was the perfect time to face Manchester United. With Sunderland not in action until Sunday, I took the opportunity to watch United against West Brom and was, if I’m honest, quite taken aback by the consummate ease with which The Baggies were able to take all three points from that game. For all David Moyes’ side were pour, I believe it would be completely remiss not to doff your cap to Steve Clark’s side that afternoon, they were superb.
The very thought of Manchester United losing three top flight games on the trot is one very few would put any credence in and as such I am fearing a backlash of sorts.
3) What are you memories of Evans and Welbeck at Sunderland and did you ever think they’d be first team starters at United?
Very, very fond memories, with Jonny Evans still remaining a firm favourite of mine and a player who’s career I follow keenly. The lad, even at such a young age when he played for Sunderland, already looked a great player with a superb footballing head on his shoulders. Heartbreakingly, there did seem to be a glimmer of hope that we may have been able to secure his services, although seeing him now as a first team regular at the Champions it is hard to bare any grudge.
Much like Evans, Danny Welbeck looked a real talent while at the Stadium of Light, if a little rough around the edges. His ability was clear to see and the lad had a fantastic attitude and work-rate to boot. I do feel he needs to add goals to his game however.
4) You’ve only picked up a single point thus far; do you think you’ll be in a relegation scrap or are you expecting a mid-table finish?
It would be foolhardy to suggest anything other than yet another relegation battle at this stage and anyone who suggests otherwise is more than likely just trying to convince themselves rather than any real belief.
My main concern with this Sunderland side is in the defensive third. We have recently reverted back to a back four which featured for most of last season and plainly wasn’t good enough then, so it certainly isn’t any better now. The same problems find themselves unaddressed, namely two midfielders in the shape of Craig Gardner and Jack Colback filling in the full back berths. Add into this the loss of the fantastic Simon Mignolet and we look even weaker in this area, which is a major concern.
5) Who is your favourite for the job?
Pass. I’ve given up trying to second guess this football club. Over the last few years we have tried the safe and solid route with Steve Bruce, the “messiah” appointment of boyhood Sunderland fan Martin O’Neill and most recently the, how should I put this, “thinking outside of the box” choice in Paolo Di Canio. None of which have garnered any real results and we still remain relegation fodder while newly promoted sides fill the mid-table spots with ease.
6) What have you made of United so far this season under Moyes?
Lacklustre. I can appreciate the frustration that many fans are feeling, after all I am more than used to watching my side underachieve pretty much every single year. However I would suggest remaining calm and giving Moyes some time to settle in his methods behind the scenes and on the pitch. After all this looks to be a season where no side in particular is going to run away with the title and you would still back Manchester United to galvanise and come good sooner rather than later.
7) Why did you get rid of Stephane Sessegnon?
Sessegnon was, quite simply, far too inconsistent. While his stellar performances since joining West Brom have caught the eye I would suggest that he will revert back to his usual Sunderland form of playing extremely well in one game before disappearing for the next two, three or even four.
This is indeed the most frustrating thing about the little fella and perhaps the only thing that has held him back from possibly plying his trade at a higher level. On his day he is jaw-droppingly good and provided many, many fantastic moments and goals during his spell in the North-East. Unfortunately however, the games where he simply didn’t show up or even look interest, greatly outnumber these moments and tarnished his reputation somewhat.
8) How will you line up on Saturday? Also, a prediction?
For all I may have come across as a little “doom and gloom”, Sunderland have shown some moments of promise, especially going forward, since Paolo Di Canio’s departure and as such I wouldn’t expect many changes from Ball, if any from the side which was beaten by Liverpool last week.
Prediction wise, my heart hopes we can further exploit a Manchester United side that has failed to really impress this year, while my head predicts the expected backlash and routine, standard United victory.
Unfortunately I think I’ll have to go with my head – 2-1 win for Manchester United.
9) Where do you think United will finish this season and if you could take one player, who would it be?
I think this year is going to be really, really close but would still expect Manchester United to be there or thereabouts come May but I feel you may just fall a little short, I’ll go with second.
As for player wise, as mentioned earlier I would love Jonny Evans to return to the North East and help shore up this defence.
10) Have you any youngsters coming through that look promising?
A signing which didn’t make any real headlines in the summer, probably due to the sheer number that we brought through the door, was Duncan Watmore from Altringham , a player whose name you may well recognise following his time with Manchester United as a youngster. The nineteen year old scored a hatful at that level last year and is currently settling in with our development squad.
Another forward we’re keeping tabs on is Mikael Mandron who made a couple of substitute appearances in the Premier League towards the end of last season. Mandron looks like he has the physical attributes at least, standing at around 6’3” and having scored twelve goals in thirteen games for the under-18’s two seasons ago looks to have an eye for goal too.
The likes of Louis Lang and John Egan, both central defenders, have looked promising but have both suffered injuries recently, so the club will be monitoring their progress.