“Dare to Dream” was Sunderland’s stirring slogan when the Black Cats triumphed on penalties at Old Trafford and secured one of the most memorable nights in a generation.
After fresh examples of Sunderland’s suicidal defending in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup hiding against Manchester City, supporters could be forgiven for joking that Dick Advocaat’s men might dare to keep a clean sheet, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Manchester United.
United is always a very tough place to go, of course, but we don’t have any pressure on usOla Toivonen
But midfielder Ola Toivonen says that Sunderland must avoid falling into the trap of stockpiling men behind the ball in a bid to scramble a result this weekend and reverse a trend which has seen the Black Cats ship 20 goals in their opening eight games in league and cup.
While Sunderland are firm underdogs against a United side lying second in the Premier League table, Toivonen believes Advocaat’s side still have to show some attacking ambition in a bid to cause a coupon-buster.
“To go to United away, you need to dare to play because if you just defend, defend, defend for 90 minutes then that is tough,” said the Swedish international.
“If you do that, then you would need a lot of lucky bounces.
“United is always a very tough place to go, of course, but we don’t have any pressure on us.
“We need to go there and really work as a team.”
The 4-1 midweek rout against City did nothing to lessen the sense of gloom surrounding Premier League basement boys Sunderland.
If, as expected, Sunderland fail to win at Old Trafford tomorrow, it will be the third season on the spin that the Black Cats have been unable to register a maiden Premier League victory during August and September.
With third-placed West Ham visiting the Stadium of Light next weekend, Sunderland may not even have a win to show for their efforts prior to the second international break.
But while individual defensive clangers have hampered Advocaat’s efforts to create some upwards momentum, there have been more positive signs from Sunderland as an attacking force.
Jeremain Lens and Fabio Borini have both seen goals wrongly ruled out at critical stages of back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and City.
And summer signing Toivonen, who netted Tuesday’s consolation, believes that if Sunderland can benefit from a slice of luck, then it could be the catalyst for a change in the club’s fortunes.
“I think (our form) will soon turn around,” added the on-loan Rennes man.
“We just need a lucky bounce or a really, really good team effort to get us through this spell.
“It is no stress yet, the season is very long. Every lucky bounce we need though.
“Jermain (Defoe) had a one v one at Bournemouth, Lens had a disallowed goal, against City there was Borini’s ‘goal’. We need a lucky break.
“It is tough in this league – Tottenham were a skilful team.
“But we felt the most pain down in Bournemouth – they were running and we weren’t.
“Against City, it wasn’t about who worked harder, they were just better.”