By Andy Hyslop
- Opportunity for United to close gap on top four rivals
- Jones, Januzaj and Varela all picked up injuries playing for under-21s
- Rojo and Valencia making progress in recoveries
Manchester United face the second of four consecutive away games when they travel to the North-East for their game against Sunderland. Both teams are desperate for the three points for differing reasons.
This weekends Premier League fixtures give United an opportunity to close the gap on the teams above them in the league table. With the top four all facing each other, three points for United is a must if they are going to close the gap on those above them.
After an end to 2015 that all Manchester United fans will want to forget, they have started 2016 with improved formed. As well as seeing an upturn in results, recent games have seen improvement in performances especially in attacking areas.
Louis Van Gaal was at Old Trafford on Monday night to watch United’s under-21s beat Norwich 7-0, despite the positive result there was bad news for the manager regarding several first-team players in that game.
Phil Jones made his return from injury in that game and played 60 minutes and although it wasn’t clear at the time, Jones picked up a knock in that game.
He is joined on the sidelines by Januzaj and Varela, who were both replaced in the first-half of that game. Though the injuries aren’t serious it means there out of contention for the clash with Sunderland.
Speaking about some of the long-term injury victims at his pre-match press conference. Van Gaal couldn’t say when Schweinsteiger may be available again.
But there was more positive news on Valencia and Rojo, with the manager confirming there is light at the end of the tunnel in their recoveries and hopes to have them back soon.
Striker Will Keane scored five goals in the 7-0 win for the under-21s on Monday night and has been included in the travelling squad for this game.
After being unchanged for the last two league games we believe that United may be unchanged once again. The only change that could possibly made is to the midfield two in our eyes.
Michael Carrick has just returned to full fitness and has played the last two games against Stoke and Chelsea after returning as a substitute against Derby.
For that reason we believe that Morgan Schneiderlin will return to the starting eleven for this one in place of Carrick.
Sunderland are just as desperate as United for the three points from this game but for very different reasons. Only Aston Villa sit below Sunderland in the Premier League table.
Sunderland are once again fighting against relegation. It must feel like groundhog day for their supporters having been in this situation for the past few seasons.
Last time out the Black Cats came from 2-0 down away to Liverpool to earn a point with two goals in the final ten minutes.
Sam Allardyce will hoping that the draw at Anfield can act as a catalyst for a run of results that will see Sunderland avoid relegation.