Saturday’s victory over Manchester United was the first time since the Premier League was formed that we actually beat the Red Devils at the Stadium of Light.
The Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg win two years ago felt really good but this one was so much more important for a number of reasons.
Obviously, the league table looks a lot better now than what it did before the weekend with other results actually going our way for once. We are now only one point behind seventeenth. If someone said to me at the start of February that we’d get four points from Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, I’d take it instantly. Norwich getting a draw isn’t too bad as I wouldn’t be surprised if they had sacked Alex Neil had they lost to West Ham.
Taking the off-field goings on from last week into account, a win or at least a spirited performance on Saturday was badly needed in order to lift the fans and the players. I could sense after the final whistle that this win was exactly what was needed after the week we’d just had. I think that has to be one of the best performances of the season, especially against a top side like Manchester United, who are still one of the biggest clubs in the world despite their struggles this season.
Sunderland got at United from the word go and wouldn’t allow them to play in the opening stages which given we were at home, that was exactly what we should have done. I did think Whabi Khazri’s free-kick was lucky to bounce across the turf without deflecting off anybody in the penalty area, but it’s still a welcome goal.
I feared the worst when Anthony Martial scored, as I felt that we would lose in the second-half because in the past we have proved unable to hold on to a result when we need to - Tottenham at home, West Ham at home and Arsenal away in the Premier League are just three examples that come to my mind.
In the second-half, David De Gea kept United in the game on a number of occasions and I was astonished at just how much we were all over them. Dame N’Doye, Lamine Kone and Partick van Aanholt all had good opportunities to score. Apart from two chances which Vito Mannone comfortably saved, it was all Sunderland.
The winner maybe had an element of fortune about it as it bounced off De Gea to go in but no-one can argue with the result as Sunderland fully deserved the three points.
Out of the new signings, Kone and Khazri in particular look to be very good additions to the squad not just because of the quality they’ve displayed so far but because of their attitude off-the-pitch. They seem to want to play for Sunderland. Just go and look at Kone’s twitter account and you’ll see what I mean. I take great heart from that as a fan.
One thing I would be slightly skeptical of is that Kone and Khazri’s first three games were against Man City, Liverpool and Man United. They are three big games and ones that they would need no motivation for. Can they produce that against the so-called ‘lesser’ sides? I hope the answer is yes.
Remember when I said last week that winning the early kick-off could prove to be a massive advantage for us? Thankfully, we took full advantage of kicking off early. Norwich, Newcastle and Aston Villa in particular would have been worried that we won, as two of them got smashed while the other blew a two-goal lead at home.
Now we have a two week break before our final ever trip to Upton Park. Of course, he will deny it in the press, but Sam Allardyce will be up for this game and it’s one he will desperately want to win or at least keep a clean sheet.
Finally, the closing line of last week’s article was that hopefully by three o’clock on Saturday we’d only need five more wins to stay up.
We now have twelve opportunities to get those five wins and while Arsenal and Chelsea - our last two home games of the season - will be very hard, there’s no reason why we can’t get something at home.
Every other fixture, even West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Leicester and Stoke, are winnable. We are by no means safe - far from it - but we now have a massive chance to get those necessary points on the board and hopefully get ourselves to safety.