Manchester United-Sunderland Preview

If Jose Mourinho thinks he's in a bad place, all he need do is glance along the touchline at the Stadium of Light on Sunday for a reminder that it can get much worse.

Manchester United (14-12-3) travel east to Sunderland this weekend to face a team coached by their former manager. But while Mourinho's short tenure has involved teething problems, the campaign has not been as universally derided as David Moyes' disastrous year in charge at Old Trafford.

Moyes' career has nosedived since his ill-fated 2013-14 stay in Manchester when they went 19-7-12, and the decision to take on a Sunderland side in need of an overhaul is close to dismantling any positive reputation he had left. But it was always going to be a tricky task for the 53-year-old Scot on Wearside, with Sunderland slipping ever closer to relegation year after year and the team in need of a total overhaul.

Even Moyes himself admitted that he was expecting this campaign to be a struggle, and his August prediction that Sunderland would be struggling against relegation come the end of the season has come true. The Black Cats (5-5-20) now 10 points from safety after a run of six games that have yielded just a single point and no goals.

Throughout Sunderland's struggles, Moyes has always said he was confident of surviving, and that he had a win schedule which remained on track. But two defeats in the last week - against Watford and Leicester City - have derailed that plan, with the former Everton boss revealing that his team now need to beat one of the league's big teams if they are to have a chance of reaching safety.

"I think the boys have given a good go at it, so there's no faulting them and I think they've done everything they can," Moyes said after Tuesday's 2-0 loss to Leicester City. "What I hadn't put down was a win against a Manchester United - or an Arsenal or Chelsea - in our remaining fixtures, so we now have to win at least one of those games.

"It's Manchester United next, so let's see if we can win that one."

If Moyes was to pick a top-six side to face right now it would probably be United.

Mourinho's outfit is stalling, drawing three of their last four games and struggling to create chances.

In fact, Manchester United's goal haul of 43 is at least 14 less than anyone else in the top six - a damning indictment of the most expensively assembled squad in Premier League history.

And while United have just completed a mightily impressive 20-game league unbeaten run, they've drawn half of those matches. They have fewer points to show from the run than any of the other 14 teams in Premier League history who have achieved a similar feat.

"Twenty matches unbeaten is amazing; I would sign immediately for that next year because in the modern Premier League it is really, really difficult to do - but we need to score goals to win matches," Mourinho said after the midweek 1-1 tie with Everton.

"But we don't score enough goals, it is as simple as that. The pragmatism is - how many goals have (Marcus) Rashford, (Jesse) Lingard, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Ander) Herrera, (Paul) Pogba scored? How many goals from these attacking players? Not enough."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will at least be available for United on Sunday, but the team's top-scorer is unlikely to be joined in the starting lineup by Wayne Rooney or Juan Mata due to injury, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are also expected to miss out.

Sunderland have goal-scoring problems of their own, but Steven Pienaar and Duncan Watmore won't be able to assist this weekend due to lengthy injury problems, while more defensive-minded players Jan Kirchhoff and Paddy McNair are also absent.

United beat Middlesbrough 3-1 earlier in the season, but have dropped points on each of their last two Premier League visits to the Stadium of Light.

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