EVERY time I’ve predicted a cup defeat against Premiership opposition this season, Sunderland have defied the odds, common sense and my prediction, writes Keith Appleton.
So I’m loathe to disrupt this pattern with our first Wembley appearance since 1992 so close.
Has there ever been a better time to play Manchester United? The Red Devils have lost four of their last five games and are missing their best striker (Van Persie) and captain (Vidic), with Rooney and Evra both doubtful.
Certainly, the 9,000 Mackems travelling to the Theatre of Dreams will have a huge role to play and Poyet must ensure Sunderland are wide awake when the game kicks off.
Alleged United target Mannone will be the busiest player on the pitch and despite the signing of Vergini, I expect the defence to remain unchanged with Bardsley, O’Shea and Brown eager to impress at their old stomping ground.
If Fletcher is unfit, I would play Borini up front and replace Altidore with Colback in a five-man midfield and look to frustrate the crowd.
If we can reach half-time on level terms, Johnson will get chances to weave his magic as desperation kicks in. So come on Sunderland, prove me wrong ... again!
Prediction: Man Utd 2 Sunderland 0