David Moyes didn’t have a happy return to Old Trafford as he watched us twice give away possession and then concede. You can find what he thinks of this by sneaking a peek at the carefully crafted letter he wrote to M Salut, and maybe one or two others, immediately after the game:
What would your seven be? Mine would be “Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, and it cost us”.
The truth is we were always chasing the game after the first goal but giving away the second and third killed us, especially as we, as Pete Sixsmith says in seven words ...”scored the best goal of the game”.
Pete also sent a text saying “Some encouragement but tired last quarter” which perhaps explains not only Man Utd’s last two goals but also Pete’s final seven words, which make my judgement seem a little harsh:
Crikey. You pushed away the turkey and Christmas pud, took off your funny paper hat and interrupted the Queen’s Speech, Frozen or Paul O’Grady (what, no Morecambe and Wise?) to step inside the pages of Salut! Sunderland.
Wrinkly Pete alluded to my dodgy numbers in his post earlier in the week so here’s an overview on our performance to date, along with that of the clubs named in the headline, which were chosen by a free and democratic poll at the start of the season. I’m keeping it brief – only a quick trip to set the scene for a “before and after” post early in the new year, and I’ve included Swansea this time, on the grounds that some people did vote for “another club” and they fit the bill, being as it were, eleven Swans a sinking
It’s a familiar question in the ‘Who are You?’ series: what do you think, we ask opposing fans, of Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, David Moyes?
This is how Dale O’Donnell, our Manchester United interviewee (he’s editor of the the Stretty News fan site), replied:
‘Yeah, I thought we looked after you a bit when Steve Bruce was in charge with the likes of Brown and O’Shea. Then your fans took the p*** a bit and Poznan’d at our expense. That has to be one of the worst small-time things I have seen as a football fan, and I highly doubt it will happen this season if Sunderland face the inevitable.’
After reading Dale’s replies, which I generally found thoughtful and knowledgeable, I asked him: ‘… was it more petty to do it, or more petty to take it seriously?’ He generously allowed for ‘a bit of both maybe’
But what better, I thought, with no football until Boxing Day, than to offer you once again Stephen Goldsmith‘s thoughts on the subject. Stephen, you may recall, once graced these pages, which he also used with Gareth Barker to promote and develop the Wise Men Say podcast until they Poznaned off to the brighter lights of ALS. He’s fondly remembered all the same and this is probably the third time his piece, slightly modified, on the subject has had an airing (so apologies if it feels a little familiar and pardon the outdated references to Sir Alex – the thrust of the article remains valid) …
It may be a long way to Tipperary but that’s the part of Ireland from where Dale O’Donnell* hails. And his heart lies at Old Trafford. Dale is the editor of Stretty News, which describes itself as ‘one of the most popular Manchester United related blogs in the history of man’. His passion is almost tangible and, while we may question the collective sense of humour breakdown (suffered by him, too) concerning that little Poznan dance at the Stadium of Light when City pipped them for the title, it is refreshing to encounter a United fan able to ‘enjoy these testing times’ …
Four wins in seven games have given us all a lift – and Sunderland a chance. We know Old Trafford presents a stiffer test than Hull, Watford or hungover Leicester at home, or Bournemouth away for that matter.
But it is a test to which Sunderland have risen and should be capable of rising again. If a Manchester United victory seems the logical outcome, David Moyes has to persuade his men to believe they can cause an upset and play accordingly.
Towards the end of the 2013-2014 season, having already been there and won a League Cup semi-final on penalties, albeit as a bad a shoot-out as anyone could remember, Gus Poyet’s Sunderland went to Old Trafford on the back of great wins at Chelsea and at home to Cardiff, and a draw that ought to have been a win at the Etihad. Could we do it again and more or less ensure Premier League survival?
Pete Sixsmith was there. Let us start with Malcolm Dawson’s perfect scene-setting introduction and then marvel at the beauty of Sixer at his best – in each case as written in early May 2014
Alex McMahon argues that Sunderland’s home form will be crucial to manager David Moyes’s attempts to build on recovery from a dreadful opening part of the season and lead his side to safety …
For the fourth season on the bounce, Sunderland endured a poor start to the Premier League campaign.
However, unlike in past struggles this underwhelming opening of the season had mitigating factors: the late departure of Sam Allardyce and the appointment of David Moyes just three weeks before the first match against Manchester City.
No one was surprised to lose to Pep Guardiola’s men on the opening day of the season, but the defeat to Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light brought a tidal wave of negativity that was not helped by the manager’s comments about being in a relegation battle.
Although a first point of the season was picked up away to Southampton, injuries were beginning to take their toll, adding to the impact of Sunderland’s familiar difficulty in attracting the required quality to remain in the top flight.
Matters on the pitch then took a turn for the worse with the winless run extending to games, including a crushing 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace and a sickening late loss to West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium.
The pressure on Moyes seemed almost to overwhelm him, but it eased just in time for a spirited 10-man performance to overcome Bournemouth, with big Victor Anichebe enjoying his first full game, scoring one goal and earning the penalty from which Jermain Defoe secured three vital away points.
Although the ship has now been steadied at home, with three victories since the win at Bournemouth, the poor start once again left Sunderland with a mountain to climb, being backed in the latest bet365 Premier League betting odds at 4/6 to be relegated to the Championship.
However, unlike our past great escapes, the roots of recovery have made their first appearance in December rather than the final throes of the campaign.
The home form has been extremely encouraging in terms of results, although the displays against Hull and Watford were far from perfect.
It summons memories of the days when Roy Keane was in charge in 2007-08 season and Sunderland were horrendous away from home but gained the wins over the bottom-half sides that kept the club in the division.
That’s one of the reasons Sunderland have struggled so much in recent seasons, with memories of defeats at Hull, Watford and West Ham. This season’s losses to Palace and Boro offered a huge warning sign that those troubles were back to bite.
However, now that Sunderland have at last shown they are capable of winning games, Moyes should feel confidence that the drop can again be avoided this season – which might even improve his mood.
Although we could look back at those early defeats to Middlesbrough and Palace with particular regret, there is plenty of time to make up the lost points between now and May with home games against Bournemouth, West Ham and Swansea City to come in the second half of the season.
Those matches could figure among make-or-break factors in determining whether Sunderland slip into the Championship.
Injuries could be decisive, too, with Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair sidelined for the season, while Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Lynden Gooch are also out for extended periods.
Financial difficulties will make signing replacements far from straightforward in the January window and may even force the club to part company with a saleable asset or two. Jordan Pickford and Lamine Kone have been linked with possible exits.
Should Moyes be able to restock the squad with some of the cash generated from those potential departures, much as he did in his Everton days, then another escape could still be achieved. Sunderland have given themselves a hard task, but there’s a path to safety available if they can seize the initiative and take it, with strong home form a massive requirement.
John McCormick writes: Wrinkly Pete is quite prescient. I was thinking of doing a relegation review before the end of the week and might still do so, depending on what comes down the Salut chimney in the next few days. I know there’s a “Who are you?” due but there may well be other posts – and you can take that as an invitation to send us something of your own if you wish. Like our esteemed manager we’re always on the lookout for young talent and not above taking on a good old’n.
Which, I suppose, returns me to Wrinkly Pete himself:
Monsieur Salut spoke with forked tongue.
The Watford game was not, after all, the last of 2016 to be marked by a prize edition of Guess the Score. I have decided that even if it means the cat goes without food this Christmas, I will stump up for a mug for whoever is first to predict the correct score for Manchester United vs Sunderland on Boxing Day.
That’s my modest Christmas present – and anyone except me can enter. That means all who help keep Salut! Sunderland afloat are eligible for the life-changing prize – a mug with the winner’s choice of name as No 12.