A definitive wins target was put in front of Sunderland’s players by Sam Allardyce last weekend.
The late comeback at Liverpool was a heartening one for Sunderland, yet the Black Cats remained four points adrift of safety heading into the final 13 games of the season.
Allardyce believes Sunderland require six wins from those 13 – a return which would take Sunderland to 38 points.
It’s difficult to argue that Sunderland indeed need such a haul, particularly if they are going to drag the likes of Bournemouth and Swansea back into the relegation scrap, who currently boast seven and eight-point buffers with Allardyce’s side.
But if Sunderland are to finish victorious on six occasions over the next three months, then the Black Cats will surely have to upset at least one of the teams at the top end of the table.
Sunderland still have to face four of the top six, plus Chelsea, during the run-in – starting with this Saturday’s visit of Manchester United.
It has been an infamously inconsistent campaign for fifth placed Man United, but Sunderland frontman Jermain Defoe admits the Black Cats are running out of chances to record the points required to remain in the top flight.
“Obviously Man United are one of the biggest clubs in the world with top players,” said Defoe.
“They’ve had an up and down season. People will say it’s a good time to play them, but each game is different.
“We’ve just got to apply ourselves in the right way and keep putting in performances because at the end of the day, we have to.
“Time is running out. We have to perform. It’s as simple as that.
“Yes, it’s pressure, but the rewards are so big.
“If we keep putting in the performances from the last two games, then I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Those last two encounters have seen Sunderland come away with a one-point total, despite producing an excellent display in last week’s defeat to title-chasing Manchester City.
United have been far more fragile than their neighbours this season, particularly on the road, where Louis van Gaal’s men have been defeated four times and only scored the same quantity of away goals as Sunderland.
And Black Cats keeper Vito Mannone says Sunderland have to question the calibre of the opposition in the position they are in, and look to take advantage of their shortcomings.
Mannone said: “These are all massive games for us, particularly at home.
“Man United are not having the best of seasons, so why not?
“We have to put question marks on the other teams, no matter who we’re playing.
“There’s 13 games to go and we need points, we need wins.”