Manchester United return to premier league duty on Saturday in a rare three o'clock kick-off (the first of the season) against rock bottom Sunderland.
Dick Advocaat must be kicking himself over why he elected to remain in the job at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland are about as inept as they come in the premier league with problems in all departments. Sebastian Coates and Jonas Kaboul have, in particular, not provided the solidity at the back that was expected when they were brought in. United old boys Wesely Brown and
After years of defying the odds, it feels like this is the season in which the Black Cats will finally go down. It's still early days in the season of course but how they recover from this position will be nothing short of another remarkable turn-around story in the premier league.
Sunderland's apparent and current inferiority complex and United's desire to hog possession and ponder over their attacks sets it up nicely for another afternoon of attack vs defence at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial's instant impact in the team has given United's attack a new dimension for opposition defences to neutralise. The teenage Frenchman's turn of pace has forced defences to push much further back and hence afforded United's midfield more space in the second third with which to work with. United found it harder to break down Newcastle for instance because of Wayne Rooney's now apparent limitations in terms of acceleration over short distances.
There is only about two predictable ways that the game will go on Saturday. If United manager to break down Sunderland and score in the first half or early in the second half, we could be three or four goals to the good before the final whistle. The second scenario is that if the Black Cats, like Newcastle, hold out for long enough into the second half, the game will descend into an exercise of frustration that will undoubtedly be informed by chants from the Stretford End of ''Attack! Attack! Attack!''
Manchester United have defensive problems no least because of the long term injury to Luke Shaw but also because Marcos Rojo is nursing a hamstring. Ashley Young will fill in at left-back so that Daley Blind and Chris Smalling can keep up their defensive partnership going.
Sunderland should only cause sporadic problems on the counter attack so that particular deficiency should not be of major concern at least until VfL Wolfsburg visit in the Champions League on Wednesday.
United are bound to have enough of the ball to send Louis van Gaal into 'domination' mode post-match. The question is whether despite the expected domination, van Gaal will field two holding players in the middle at the expense of another creative/attacking out-let. We know which option we would prefer as fans but the Dutchman might not be having any of it!
Wayne Rooney scored in mid-week to break his domestic duck. Sunderland at home surely represents his best opportunity yet to break that duck in the premier league.
United registered an important win last week away at Southampton but were lacking in terms of overall performance. October promises a host of difficult tests both in Europe and domestically, making the three points tomorrow a must-get.