Manchester United

Tactical Battles That Will Shape Manchester United's Clash with Sunderland

Scott RomFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

Tactical Battles That Will Shape Manchester United's Clash with Sunderland

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    It’s not often you’ll find a set of supporters who aren't too bothered about booking their place in a Cup final at Wembley, but that’s the predicament Manchester United find themselves in at the moment.

    If United beat Sunderland they have Manchester City waiting for them in the League Cup final which isn't a very appealing prospect right now. Aside from the fact the Reds have a dreadful record at the new Wembley, City are on fire at the moment and United look awful.

    But before worrying about City, United have a 2-1 scoreline to turn around, and there will be several key battles to look out for.

Marcos Alonso vs Antonio Valencia

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    Alonso rugby tackles Valencia
    Alonso rugby tackles ValenciaScott Heppell/Associated Press

    In the first leg, the left-back on loan from Real Madrid, Marcos Alonso, was named Man of the Match.

    Antonio Valencia has struggled for form this season and even though he’s improved on last year, thanks to him actually attempting to take players on again, his crossing has been poor. He can beat a player though, particularly with the support of Rafael, so he’ll be looking to make amends for recent performances.

Midfield Battle

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    Cleverley chases Cattermole
    Cleverley chases CattermoleLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    As if enough hasn't been written about our problems in the centre of the park, but this area of the pitch is regularly bypassed and will likely prove a problem again on Wednesday night.

    Darren Fletcher and Phil Jones have probably been our best performing central midfielders this season, even if the latter did have a stinker against Chelsea.

    It’s a dark day for any team if Lee Cattermole is bossing the pitch when playing against you. Let’s hope Moyes can find a midfield pairing that will mean United have some say in what goes on in the centre of the park.

Phil Bardsley vs Adnan Januzaj

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    Larsson and Bardsley double up on Januzaj
    Larsson and Bardsley double up on JanuzajLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Having played up front against Chelsea, hopefully Adnan Januzaj will be shifted back on to the left against Sunderland, meaning Phil Bardsley could have a tough game ahead of him.

    Januzaj had the ball in the back of the net in the first leg, only for it to be ruled out for offside. He made his full debut against Sunderland earlier this season, coming off the bench with United 1-0 down, to score two goals to earn his team the three points.

    He is easily United's most dangerous available player and the team will be relying on him for some moments of magic.

Patrice Evra vs Adam Johnson

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Evra’s form has been on the decline for a while and tricky wingers like Adam Johnson are simply too much for him these days.

    In the first leg, Evra was caught out of position in the second half, making it easy for Johnson to cut inside to lure in a challenge from Tom Cleverley, which lead to the match-winning penalty.

    Evra will be hoping that someone who provides him more protection, not someone like Shinji Kagawa, will start on the left wing for this one.

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