Sunderland’s players have the chance to show what they are made of on Boxing Day when they play Manchester United on one of the biggest stages of world football – Old Trafford.
What a place to perform and if playing in front of more than 75,000 against the biggest club in the country doesn’t motivate you, then nothing will.
Looking at United’s results on home soil, Sunderland should go there with respect and a game-plan but not with fearGARY ROWELL
This is obviously going to be a hugely-difficult game but United have been less-than-convincing at home, drawing many games they were expecting to win.
Their form at Old Trafford is the reason they are lagging behind in the title race and their record of three home wins is no more than Sunderland have at the Stadium of Light.
Looking at United’s results on home soil, Sunderland should go there with respect and a game-plan but not with fear.
However, Jose Mourinho’s men are better than they were earlier in the season and the players he has available to him are a in a different class to what David Moyes has to work with.
So Moyes will go to his former stamping ground and try to get the better of Mourinho tactically and it would not surprise me if he recalls John O’Shea and plays three centre-backs like he did against Chelsea, when he nearly got a point.
One change will be forced on him with because of the absence of Adnan Januzaj against his parent club.
Stopping Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be Sunderland’s toughest challenge, the big Swede got a couple in his last game but if he’s not firing then you have to stop Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and then there’s the England captain Wayne Rooney who cannot get a regular game this season such is the depth in the United squad.
The Black Cats’ win against Watford has eased the pressure on Moyes and his team and many will see this as a free game with little expectation so the players should use that to their advantage and try to emulate the likes of Burnley and Stoke who have both gone to the Theatre of Dreams massive underdogs, but left with a point.
Sunderland have a couple of good memories of recent visits to Old Trafford, Seb Larsson’s winner and, of course, the League Cup semi-final and it would be great if another sell-out away following has a similar one to celebrate on Boxing Day.