In-form Manchester United welcome lowly Sunderland to Old Trafford on Boxing Day, with David Moyes returning to his old club for the first time since he was sacked in 2014. With United back in winning form with 3 league victories in a row against Tottenham, Crystal Palace, and West Brom, Moyes will face a tough task in order to get something out of this fixture.
Here, we look at 3 key battles that may well decide the outcome of the match:
1. Zlatan Ibrahimović vs Sunderland’s defence
Whoever Moyes picks in defence will be tasked to stop an in-form, confident and rampant Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has been in a purple patch recently, scoring 7 goals and providing an assist in 6 recent league games for the Red Devils.
Ibrahimović will be licking his lips on the prospect of facing Sunderland’s leaky back-line, which has already shipped 28 goals this campaign. With the likes of Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, and Wayne Rooney behind him, United’s attack is near impossible to stop, and Sunderland’s rearguard must be on their toes for the whole of 90 minutes to avoid a thrashing.
2. David Moyes vs José Mourinho
Moyes makes his return to the Theatre of Dreams and will be desperate to prove to the fans that United were wrong to dismiss him just nine months into his job at the helm. If Moyes gets a result against arguably the best manager in the world in José Mourinho, he may well prove a point. Will the Special One prevail, or will “the Chosen One” come back to haunt United?
3. Jordan Pickford vs David de Gea
Pickford has been one of the top performers in the league this season, earning plaudits for his outstanding displays in goal for Sunderland.
Many goalkeepers have come to Old Trafford this season and turned in spirited performances and goalkeeping masterclasses. Pickford will be keen to add his name to that list, which already comprises Burnley’s Tom Heaton, Arsenal’s Petr Cech, West Ham’s Darren Randolph, and Stoke’s Lee Grant.
David de Gea, on the other hand, will have to keep an eye on Sunderland’s dangermen, Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe, as nothing less than a clean sheet against a side languishing in 18th place in the league table will be good enough.
Prediction: Although Sunderland are in decent form at the moment, United have been looking like they mean business with their brilliant performances lately. United have started to gel as a team and are playing like a well-oiled machine. It will be a huge ask for Sunderland to get anything out of the game at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Manchester United 2-0 Sunderland