There's NOEL time like the PRESENT to start writing up SAFC's trip to Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Let's hope Bruce's boys put in the performance of a lifetime and make Sir Alex look like a TURKEY... Sorry. I really am. Sorry.
Truly awful puns aside, here's some SAFC Team News:
Craig Gordon Banks will obviously continue in goal, after his weekend heroics, so that's a given.
The back four, is yet again, unpredictable. However that's not going to stop me predicting. We know Mensah is out, he's played a few games in a row, so its about time he got himself injured, and John duly obliged against Bolton. In the Bolton game, Bruce once again completely forgot about Paulo Da Silva, and brought Elmohamady on at right back, with Nedum Onouha shifting to centre-back alongside a Lazarus-esque Ferdinand, and Bardsley keeping out harms way at left-back. I fully expect Bruce to continue with the back four that finished the Bolton game, and to be honest, that's the defence I'd put out. It looks to be too soon for Bramble, however we've seen Ferdinand recover pretty quickly from 'a month out', so I wouldn't be too surprised to see Bramble bumbling round Old Trafford on Sunday.
Into midfield, we've got a few problems too. As you're aware, we're without captain Cattermole. A huge loss in the middle as he was in tremendous form. As for candidates to replace him, I'm not convinced by any option. We've no other player in the squad like Cattermole. Young David Meyler is probably the closest, but is only just back form injury and looked very off-pace versus Fulham, yet I'd still have him as the leading contender. Bruce has to replace Welbeck too, unavailable to play against his parent team, so someone needs to patrol the left hand side. Shift Richardson out wide? Zenden? Somehow put Riveros in the team? Malbranque in from the cold? Who knows. I'm convinced Bruce will persist with the God-awful Richardson in the middle, and partner him with Meyler. Zenden patrolling the left, and Henderson on the right.
Up front the team picks itself. I think Bruce brought Gyan off against Bolton with an eye on United, and he'll partner Bent up front. No more 4-5-1 for us.
Bruce's Probable Team:
Gordon; Bardsley, Elmohamady, Onouha, Ferdinand; Zenden, Meyler, Richardson, Henderson; Gyan, Bent
Gordon; Bardsley, Elmohamady, Onouha, Ferdinand; Zenden, Riveros, Henderson, Malbranque; Gyan, Bent
From the Man United side:
In stark contrast to Bolton last week, Man United are surprising nobody and sitting top of the table. We know exactly who they are and what they're about, so I'm expecting no shocks.
All the key battles will occur in midfield I think. Can the youngsters Henderson & Meyler compete for 90 minutes, and will Zenden be able to cope with Park, Nani or indeed both? I think if we can stop Nani, we've a very real chance of getting a point, and hopefulyl doubling up on him with Zenden and Bardsley should do the trick. Nani's got a touch of the Ronaldo about him in that he has all the talent in the world, but if you can keep him quiet for extended periods he can turn stroppy and ineffectual.
Another one to keep an eye on will be Rooney. The granny-shagger has been out of sorts of late, but at the end of the day, he's Wayne Frigging Rooney, and will bounce back eventually. Lets hope he can put it off a week, because if Ferdinand take a mid-match nap, Rooney will be primed to strike.
Mixed bag. Heart says draw, head says loss.
We'll hear from the head first; They're gonna be very strong after an extra weeks rest, and can we really get two 'Chelsea-esque' results in one season? Doubtful.
However boys and girls, the heart is much more optimistic! An early goal for the lads, and a we can battle our way to a 1-1, Gyan for the good guys, and controversial penalty for United. Leaving SAFC fans coming away feeling disappointed we didn't go on and win.
I'll side with the heart on this one and because it's Christmas, and I've had some cheer.
Ha'way the lads.