Manchester United will welcome their former manager back to Old Trafford on Boxing Day as David Moyes brings his Sunderland team to town. It will be interesting to see the reaction that the Scotsman gets at Old Trafford considering his poor tenure as Manchester United manager. Although he didn’t do great, it was always going to be an impossible job to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson and what has happened since Moyes does highlight the difficulty of being Manchester United manager. The job was too big for him and he is now at a club that suits him a lot more.
It is going to be an important few weeks for Manchester United as they have a great opportunity to climb the league table as many of their rivals have a more difficult run of fixtures. Jose Mourinho will be targeting nine points from matches against Sunderland, Middlesbrough and West Ham. They all pose a different sort of threat, but United should be favourites against all three. After some slip ups earlier in the season, United need to be consistent over the second half of the season as they try and return to the Champions League. That must start with three wins from their next three fixtures.
On the other hand, Sunderland will be fighting for their lives once again this season and they have recovered well after a poor start. They are now only one point from safety and will make sure they are difficult to beat at Old Trafford. David Moyes is beginning to make an impact in the North East and Sunderland are now difficult to beat. In their last two matches, they have conceded only one goal and that gives them something to build on.
The home side are beginning to build momentum and that is a frightening thought for Sunderland on Boxing Day. Jose Mourinho’s side have won their last three Premier League matches and haven’t lost since the end of October. Their problem has been failing to kill off matches, but there have been improvements in that area over the past few weeks. United have only conceded once in their last three matches, which suggests that Jose Mourinho has finally provided them with the solidity that his sides are known for.
Sunderland have actually won four of their last seven matches and that revival has helped keep David Moyes in a job. The squad available to him is one of the weakest in the Premier League and if he manages to keep them in the division, he will have done an excellent job. They have the best defensive record in the bottom four and if they continue to progress, they will have a fighting chance of surviving for at least one more season.
Mourinho isn’t known for making changes when things are going well and they are at Old Trafford at the moment. I expect Henrikh Mkhitaryan to come in to add some dynamism to the attack. Wayne Rooney could be the one to drop out as Jesse Lingard was very good against West Brom.
Adnan Januzaj won’t be able to play against his parent club, which could provide Wahbi Khazri with the opportunity to start. This would mean that Fabio Borini is moved into a central role. That is the only change that I expect from Sunderland after their victory over Watford.
Manchester United Sunderland
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Eric Bailly is back in training after suffering a knee injury against Crystal Palace. Manchester United could also be boosted by the returns of Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both closing in on a first team comeback.
Jack Rodwell, Javi Manquillo and Billy Jones are all back in training with the first team. Steven Pienaar is a doubt for Boxing Day. Meanwhile, Lee Cattermole, Paddy McNair, Lynden Gooch, Duncan Watmore and Jan Kirchhoff will all miss out through injury.
Manchester United are due to give a side a hammering after some excellent performances that haven’t been rewarded with the goals that they deserved. Sunderland could be that team. They are getting better at the back, but there is a noticeable talent difference between the two sides and I expect that to show. Although Sunderland are likely to lose this game, they shouldn’t be disheartened. They are getting better and their season won’t rely on matches such as these.
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