Sunderland’s Survival Fight Starts With Manchester United Visit

Steven Fletcher SunderlandManchester United roll into Wearside on Saturday as Sunderland’s Premier League survival run-in begins with what will surely be one of the toughest tests of the season.

The home team have not won since triumphing 3-2 at Wigan Athletic at the end of January and even a point would be a massive boost for the Lads.

Sunderland are just four points away from the drop zone and realistically need at least two wins to get themselves out of danger.

The Manchester United game is the start of four difficult fixtures, with trips to Chelsea and North East neighbours Newcastle United following before David Moyes’ Everton visit the Stadium of Light.

Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill was dealt a huge blow this week with the confirmation that he will be without his captain Lee Cattermole or star striker Steven Fletcher for the final eight games of the season, Cattermole requiring surgery on a knee problem and Fletcher suffering from damaged knee ligaments in Scotland’s game with Wales last week.

United are in superb league form although they are expected to rest several key personnel with their FA Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea taking place this Monday lunchtime.

Black Cats now hope that fringe players will see the Red Devils clash as a chance for the members of O’Neill’s squad to cement places in the starting XI and save their side’s season.

The likes of Connor Wickham, Alfred N’Diaye and Jack Colback all come into contention for the Saturday lunchtime kick-off.

Seven wins from 30 Premier League games played is a disastrous return for a side who were expected to make top-half of the division and not be in danger of relegation trouble at this stage of the campaign.

As a result, fans, with a season ticket renewal deadline fast approaching, are now questioning O’Neill’s ability to lead Sunderland to where owner Ellis Short wants them to be.

If the Wearsiders can spring a surprise against United, it will go a long way to securing safety, but it is an almighty ask.

Sunderland v Manchester United is live on Sky Sports One on Saturday with kick-off at 12.45pm.

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