Ryan Giggs’ second game in charge of Manchester United sees Sunderland visit Old Trafford on Saturday, where the Welshman will be looking to build from his perfect start in the United hot seat last weekend.
United ran out 4-0 victors against lowly Norwich City at the Theatre of Dreams, but they now face a different animal in Sunderland, who have recorded some remarkable results against the Premier League’s elite of late.
Gus Poyet’s side took a point from their trip to the Etihad Stadium on April 16 before disposing of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge just three days later, giving them the platform from which to move out of the relegation zone.
A result at Old Trafford would complete a hat-trick of surprising results for the Black Cats; but with United looking a different outfit under the leadership of Giggs, it’s not going to be easy.
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Saturday, May 3
Time: 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. ET
TV Info: Fox Sports 2 (U.S. only)
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go (U.S. only)
Giggs' Chance to Prove Managerial Credentials
With the dark days under David Moyes well and truly over at Old Trafford, the chance to fill Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous seat is once again up for grabs.
Though a whole host of suitors are in line for the job, including Louis van Gaal, interim player/manager Giggs is in the perfect position to show the Manchester United board exactly what he can bring to the role.
United played like, well, United last weekend against Norwich, demonstrating the measured, attacking football that took them to the top of the English game under Ferguson.
11 - Manchester United have had more shots on target today than any previous Premier League game this season. Intent.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 26, 2014
With matches against Hull City and Southampton to come following Saturday’s clash, Giggs has a great opportunity to claim four wins out of four and turn his short spell in charge into a long one.
The 40-year-old’s former teammate, Gary Neville, said that Giggs should be given a chance to stake his claim for the job—per Mark Ogden of The Telegraph:
He started well on Saturday. So let him have two or three more games to see whether he settles into the position and whether he can bed in and be given that role. I don’t think there’s any certainty wherever you go. There’s the idea that Ryan hasn’t got experience, but he knows the club. And then there’s the idea that Van Gaal has massive experience, but he doesn’t know the Premier League. At the end of the day the owners will do what they want to do. I suppose in some ways they want an experienced hand, but I personally would like to see a British manager be appointed because Manchester United have always appointed British managers. We’ll wait and see.
Facing Sunderland is the ideal fixture for Giggs, too, as the Black Cats haven’t recorded a victory at Old Trafford since September 1952—per 11v11.com.
However, Poyet’s in-from side will be looking to change that stat, with the help of their talismanic striker, Connor Wickham.
Wickham on Fire
Wickham is the Premier League’s in-form striker heading into May’s fixtures, as Opta Joe revealed:
5 - Connor Wickham has now scored more Premier League goals this month than any other player. Rebirth.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 27, 2014
The 21-year-old’s brace against Cardiff City saw him chalk up his fifth goal in just three league matches having previously rarely been given a chance in Sunderland’s starting XI.
The England under-21 international said he’s over the moon to be getting game time and scoring goals again, but he called for the club to remain grounded in their Premier League survival aspirations—as BBC Sport reported:
There's no point looking back in time - I'm here scoring goals now. I'm just happy to be playing, I've said all the time that's all I wanted. I just wanted to show the manager I've got what it takes. I'm not going to hold any grudges about not playing in the past. There's lot of hype now we're out of the bottom three. We're on cloud nine at the moment but need to stay level-headed.
Though trips to Old Trafford haven’t reaped a lot of success for Sunderland of late, they’ll hope that with Wickham on song they have a chance of grinding out a result.
His pace, power and finishing prowess are what made him such a star during his Ipswich Town days, warranting the £8 million fee that Sunderland paid for his services.
Now that he’s back among the goals, he’s looking to be the thorn in another top team’s side; though if the Manchester United boss gets his tactics right, you won’t be hearing a lot from the young Englishman on Saturday afternoon.
It’s difficult to write Sunderland off given their recent form, but Manchester United and Giggs have such a point to prove that they’ll likely overpower the Black Cats and once again give United’s board something to think about.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Sunderland