Man. Utd. are vulnerable this season, as the Lads showed in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, that excellent 2-2 draw, when we were robbed by a late deflected own goal. They do not like teams coming at them, and have a certain fragility to counter-attacks. Man. Utd. are beatable, having lost 5 away games this season.
The outcome of this match will come down to whether Steve Bruce can coax another adrenaline-filled, straight from the heart, pacy, top-notch performance out of the team. The capacity SSOL crowd will definitely be up for it! Will we turn up like we did against Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs and Man. City, or wimp out like against Portsmouth, Everton or Birmingham? OK, those latter games were during the winless winter, when the confidence of the team had been affected. I don’t care what managers say, teams can go out with a losing psychology, once they have gone a few games without a win. But Sunderland’s preparation for this game is excellent, with 2 wins on the trot and a clean sheet in the last game.
To me it depends a lot on the back four. We are without Hutton, and Mensah is doubtful. On the bright side Kilgallon was near faultless against Hull. So look out for the Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon and Ferdinand combination.
With Cattermole having an injury-prone season, I would like to see Cana return, to help protect the back four. This has been one of the issues this season, do we really have a defensive midfielder? Jones has probably been most solid when coming back to help out. With Reid still out I would favour a midfield of Cana, Henderson, Malbranque and Campbell, and of course the strikers pick themselves.
Call me sad if you like, but I am old enough to remember the climax to the 1968 season. OK. I was a kid at the time; that was the first season when I went to games at Roker Park. Sunderland were on a good run and had pulled clear of the relegation zone (how familiar is that?) and did not have a great home record that year (won 8, drew 7, lost 6), but they had won 4 away games. SAFC were set to play at Old Trafford on the last day, with Man. Utd. looking easy for the title. Newcastle were hosting Man. City at St. James’ concurrently.
What a climax to the season! Sunderland won 2-1 at Old Trafford, with goals from Suggett and Mulhall. Then City pulled the rabbit out of the hat with a great attacking display at Newcastle in a 4-3 win, to bring home the title.
So obviously, I want to see a Sunderland win, we as fans live for days like this, but importantly I’d like to see Bent (24 league goals) score again to get closer to Rooney (26), and be in the running for top Prem. scorer. Then he cannot be ignored for that flight to South Africa...
©Lars J.S. Knutsen