Sunderland need to channel the spirit of 2014

A League Cup hammering followed by a trip to the Theatre of Dreams has probably given Dick Advocaat some sleepless nights this week, but it may not be all doom and gloom for Sunderland on Saturday.

It’s easy to scoff at Sunderland’s chances ahead of their trip to Old Trafford this weekend, and at 14/1 with Ladbrokes, a win may seem unlikely, but there are a few factors that can put the Black Cats in a better light.

It’s a season full of upsets, and before they kicked off at Eastlands, West Ham were as big as 12/1 to see off the league leaders Man City a week ago, and Crystal Palace were also at 12s when they went to Stamford Bridge and beat Chelsea.

Throw in Japan’s incredible win against South Africa – 66/1 – and Roberta Vinci’s US Open conquest of Serena Williams – 20/1 – and suddenly Sunderland don’t seem that bad in this Autumn of surprises.

Sunderland also have recent experience of heading to Old Trafford desperately needing a win.

In their great escape two seasons ago, a Sebastian Larsson goal was enough to claim the points in Manchester in the middle of a five-game spell which also saw them beat Chelsea and draw with Man City to avoid relegation.

Louis van Gaal’s United, who are 1/5 favourites to win on Saturday, may be sitting second in the table, but there’s still plenty of work to be done in the west part of Manchester, particularly defensively.

They were a clear second best for the opening half an hour in their visit to Southampton last weekend, before some clinical finishing and defensive lapses from the Saints eventually allowed the Reds to prevail 3-2.

They were also defensively poor in Europe, as PSV came from behind to claim a 2-1 win in the Netherlands.

Indeed United have only kept one clean sheet in their last five games and that was at home to Championship opposition.

Given Sunderland’s woes this term, one could envisage United taking to the pitch with an air of complacency on Saturday afternoon, and that could play beautifully into the Black Cats’ paws.

A few Sunderland fans who have done their research may also fancy Jermain Defoe to play a role this weekend, with the ex-West Ham man netting the only goal for the Hammers in a 1-0 win over United way back in 2001, the first of five strikes Defoe has bagged versus the Red Devils.

The Englishman is 12/1 to open the scoring, and 4/1 to score anytime.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £50 in free bets.