RECENT MEMORIES of Old Trafford are as good for Sunderland, as they are bad for Tuesday’s trip to the KC Stadium.
Sunderland secured a first Wembley final in 22 years when 9,000 delirious away fans witness a dramatic penalty shoot-out success at Manchester United 13 months ago, before the Black Cats’ Premier League win there took them to the verge of top flight survival.
In contrast, Sunderland suffered two utterly dispiriting defeats at bogey side Hull last season – a loss with nine men just a week after the Tyne-Wear derby success, plus a miserable capitulation in the FA Cup quarter-final.
But does history really matter ahead of two away games squeezed into the space of four days?
Time will tell, yet Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet believes it does.
“A lot comes down to feelings, what you have achieved in the past and what you can achieve in the future,” said Poyet.
I think last year’s games, even if the one in the cup was on penalties, give you something extra.Gus Poyet
“I think the players are really looking forward to today because of last year.
“When you go to a place that is so difficult and you lose all the time, as soon as you concede a goal, that’s it.
“I think last year’s games, even if the one in the cup was on penalties, give you something extra.
“When you ask me about Tuesday, it’s the opposite... but it’s true.”
Sunderland have suffered at home, as well as away, against Hull since the Tigers returned to the Premier League, with Steve Bruce’s men winning five games in a row against the Black Cats.
Boxing Day’s defeat was particularly damaging for Sunderland on the back of their Tyne-Wear derby victory.
But, while Tuesday’s game could be pivotal between two sides locked in the relegation dogfight, Poyet insists his only focus is on today’s trip to Old Trafford.
“We are not thinking about Tuesday at all, I can promise you that,” said Poyet.
“I’m not even thinking about resting a player. We’re playing this game as the most important one and this week has been good.
“I want to transfer everything we’ve done this week into the game and that’s what a coach wants to achieve every week.”
Certainly, Poyet doesn’t believe Sunderland’s chances of victory today are vastly inferior to their hopes on Tuesday night – perhaps wisely, given the Black Cats respective fortunes against the big boys and the lesser lights over the last two seasons.
And with question marks continuing to linger over Manchester United’s defensive resilience, Poyet insists Sunderland will show some ambition at Old Trafford.
“You cannot only defend, that’s for sure,” added Poyet. “If you only defend, then we’re going to lose it.
“I think the last two games they’ve played at home, especially the Burnley one, it showed that if you do attack, you’re going to have options. That doesn’t mean you’ll score, but you’ll have options.
“It’s difficult for a team to play with (Wayne) Rooney and (Angel) Di Maria in midfield, plus (Adnan) Januzaj, (Robin) van Persie and (Radamel) Falcao, and not let the opposition have options going forward.
“You’d need the best defenders in the world one v one all the time.
“So, yes, it’s important that we believe in what we do, try to go forward and get in behind.”