Favourites can make light work of woeful Sunderland
Black Cats goal drought gives little cause for optimism
Sky Sports 1 & Mix, 1.30pm
The damning statistics have been stacking up for Sunderland, who have picked up just six points from 13 Premier League games since Christmas and failed to score in nine of their last ten matches in all competitions.
The dismal state of the doomed Black Cats is also reflected by Manchester United’s odds for their visit to the Stadium of Light.
Since the turn of the year United have had frustrating draws with Stoke, Hull, Bournemouth, West Brom and, on Tuesday night, Everton yet they are just 4-11 to take three points at the top flight’s bottom club.
Jose Mourinho is 17-4 to endure a seventh stalemate in 11 league games, while it is 10-1 that David Moyes ends up celebrating victory over his former club.
For that to happen, Sunderland would need to score a goal – something they haven’t managed in their last six-and-a-half games, since an extraordinary first half at Crystal Palace, where they led 4-0 at the break.
The Selhurst Park result looks more inexplicable by the week as Moyes’s boys have gone on to lose to Southampton, Everton, Manchester City, Watford and Leicester.
Their only point since the Palace win came in a goalless draw at home to woeful travellers Burnley and if Jermain Defoe doesn’t score then Sunderland tend not to find the net.
The England striker has scored 14 of his side’s 24 league goals – and one of the other ten came when Leicester’s Robert Huth put through his own net – so it is hard to see Sunderland giving United goalkeeper David de Gea a testing Sunday afternoon.
De Gea and his defence have had a solid campaign, conceding only 24 goals in 29 matches, so backing an away win with under 3.5 goals in the match looks an appealing punt at odds-against.
Apart from a 4-1 home defeat to Arsenal, Sunderland have kept things fairly respectable against the top six. They held Tottenham (0-0) and Liverpool (2-2) to draws at home and lost 1-0 to leaders Chelsea and 2-0 against Manchester City.
All of those sides carry a far greater attacking threat than Mourinho’s United, whose tally of 43 goals in 29 games is easily the lowest among the sides chasing a Champions League spot.
They needed a late penalty from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to earn the 1-1 draw with Everton in midweek although eight of their 14 league victories have come away from Old Trafford, where visiting teams have found it easy to subdue United’s attackers.
Even with Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata injured, Mourinho has an array of expensive talents. Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial are among those keen to take out their frustration on Sunderland, who are a Championship team in all but name.
Manchester United to win & under 3.5 goals
2pts 21-20 Betway, BoyleSports, Coral
John O’Shea is on compassionate leave and winger Adnan Januzaj is ineligible to play against his parent club. Jan Kirchhoff, Paddy McNair and Duncan Watmore are injured.
Antonio Valencia is set to return at right-back after being rested against Everton and Paul Pogba should also be restored to the starting line-up. Ashley Young, Wayne Roooney and Juan Mata are out.
None of Sunderland’s last nine matches have featured goals at both ends