United struggle against unmanaged Sunderland
By Andrew Cuff
Sunday 07 Dec 2008 17:30:00
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Roy Keane’s influence was sorely missed as Sunderland travelled to Old Trafford in an attempt to muscle their way out of the relegation zone. Roy Keane’s departure from the Stadium of Light meant that caretaker manager, Sbragia, was left to try and piece together a team to take on United.


Ferguson’s most important match this week is to secure more points against Sunderland as the Christmas period approaches. December and January seems to be the month when table leaders can falter and the season can be lost. Victories on their own cannot secure the title, losses and dropped points can prove crucial as the season moves into its second semester.


The team lined up with Van Der Sar, Rafael (who managed his 3 start in as many games), Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra made up the United defensive unit, the midfield saw Park, Fletcher, Carrick and Ronaldo supporting Rooney and Berbatov. Tevez once again was only able to sit on the sidelines and watch as the match kicked off without him up front and signals clearly enough that Ferguson has no intention of being held to ransom to keep the 24 year old striker. Ferguson earlier this season confirmed his intention of making the striker a part of his permanent team, Tevez’s agents are looking for an extortionate £30 million for Tevez, after paying that figure for Berbatov I do not see Ferguson once again paying that figure for a replacement striker.


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Martin Fulop showed why what he can do as second string keeper behind Craig Gordon. The keeper did not fail to disappoint, giving the performance of his career saving numerous shots. United attacked a sea of Blue shirts over and over again in an attempt to break Sunderland. Rafael providing a constant nuisance to down the right feeding balls into the goal a number of times. United should have had the game tied up a lot earlier after Fletcher miss hit a shot and Rooney was denied after a Ronaldo free kick.


Ronaldo returned after serving his one match ban after being sent off against City last weekend, though failed to impress his skills down the left flank and ended up leaving the field just before the 70th minute with an injury.


Sunderland came closest to scoring though the legs of Van Der Sar saved the day after Diouf’s shot was deflected. Tevez was used as a second half substitute for Park and despite United having three strikers up front it was Vidic who got the winner. Carrick giving United an impressive shot was denied by the post though it landed comfortably in the path of Vidic who just tapped the ball over the line to secure the three vital points for United.


Chelsea and Liverpool managed to secure victories this weekend meaning the difference remains the same at the top of the Premier League table, United’s focus now shifts to the midweek clash against Aalborg who travel to Manchester. The match itself bearing no influence on the outcome of the Champions League after the draw with Villarreal meant that both United and Villarreal qualify, the points will determine who finishes top of the table and ultimately the competitors in the next round. Will Ferguson play his youngsters again? Well I expect we will see Tevez starting while Ferguson rests one of his strikers. Foster or Kuszczak may also get a start in goal and Ronaldo may be rested after being substituted in this match, injured. Scholes however may see a return to the squad and Rafael seems to have secured his position at right back his brother has yet to feature in a United’s first team game.


Rooney managed to pick up his 5th booking of the season meaning Tevez is likely to get a start against Tottenham next weekend. Evra managed to get his 5th card last weekend against City though the 7 day rule over serving the ban means it only affects the match after today that being against Spurs.


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The midweek clash against Aab Aalborg kicks off at 19h45 (GMT) and will be featured on SkySports2.

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