The sight of Kopites turning their backs on the hallowed turf of Anfield may have been big news for the papers, but was it to blame for Liverpool’s two goal collapse? It is always difficult for commentators to quantify the effects of off-field issues. It remains to be seen whether Adam Johnson’s sacking as a result of his guilty pleas will affect the Black Cats. They played well and deserved a point against Liverpool, Jermain Defoe in particular making Mamadou Sakho look very amateurish indeed. The tone in post-match interviews was upbeat and positive—the news this week has punctured that atmosphere amongst fans, so could well trouble the players and staff too. Manchester United look like treading water themselves, falling to a dull draw against Chelsea. Those Champions League places are getting further out of reach for LVG’s charges.
Patrick Van Aanholt
A series of good performances means that Van Aanholt is arguably Sunderland’s most valuable player, and likely one of the first out the door in the event of relegation. 3 goals and 2 assists so far this season isn’t too bad for a left back, especially for a team fighting to stay up. It’s not the first time the Dutchman has made my picks, and probably won’t be the last.
According to Garth Crooks, scoring a goal like this one is enough to put you in contention for an England spot—but I’m not convinced. Any young player good enough to play for Manchester United would ordinarily be in with a shout, but the emergence of several English players this season means competition for a spot this summer is going to be fierce. Lingard is 23 years old and has made just 19 senior appearances this season. Is he really due a call-up?
If Sunderland manage to stay up, they will surely be indebted to the ex-Spurs striker. His strike to beat Mignolet was his sixth in six games— earning Sunderland seven points in the process. Each one is gold dust to Sam Allardyce, but the problem with Defoe is the same one he’s had for his whole career. When he isn’t scoring, he offers very little. Allardyce will pray the goals keep coming.
LVG’s watch-paint-drying football style has cost United points and prestige this season—fans will be happy to put up with Mourinho’s defensive style if it gets results. One young player who has managed to shine even in LVG’s rigid set-up is Martial, who looks every inch Thierry Henry’s successor. The Red Devils hugely overpaid for the French teenager, but under a new manager we might see Martial rise to become one of the best players in the league.