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Fan Focus: “If you keep Zlatan quiet, you never know” says journalist and Man Utd fan Tom McDermott

Tom Mcdermott has written for the likes of Sky Sports and Team Talk but he is also the creator of United fansite and podcast - The United End. Speaking to Rory, Tom discussed the upcoming game, where Sunderland might find some joy and there’s some thoughts on David Moyes.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

RF: What's the overall feeling on this season for fans of Manchester United? They've not been spectacular but far from terrible and could still win the Europa League, but a lot was made of the residence of sixth place and not breaking into the Champions League places. Room for improvement but still steady progress, nonetheless?

TM: There has been improvement in the style of football but there’s still some way to go I think. What probably presents Sunderland with half a chance at the weekend is United’s inability to kill teams off, and if you can keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet, you never know.

Sixth will be easier to swallow if Jose Mourinho wins the Europa League. Two trophies and Champions League football, if it arrives, isn’t a bad start. Easier said than done though.

RF: Just what has Luke Shaw done to incur the wrath of Jose Mourinho? I'm actually starting to feel a bit sorry for him because it doesn't seem like even he knows what he's done.

TM: No idea and if he’s feeling confused as well, then few can blame him. Criticised one week by Mourinho, then coming on as sub the week after, it’s all very bizarre. From a footballing point of view he’s an unbelievable talent. You do wonder if the injury he sustained last year is having an impact on his progress mentally.

RF: Given his disastrous tenure at Manchester United, are you at all surprised to see David Moyes struggling on Wearside? Did you think we were appointing a broken man?

TM: I’m actually a little bit surprised at how bad he’s been. He should never have got the United job, but I did think he was a very competent Premier League manager. I find some of his comments since he arrived a little bit strange as well. It feels almost like he was preparing for relegation the moment he walked through the door. Only watching from afar of course, I now feel that he’s the wrong man to lead you back to the Premier League next season, assuming you go down.

RF: I don't have to explain how bad Sunderland are at the moment and United are unbeaten in their last 20 matches. Can you point out an weaknesses in your side that might make Sunderland fans feel a shred of positivity?

TM: During the first 30 minutes against Everton, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Tom Davies really passed the ball well through United’s midfield. I’m not sure if Sunderland have the type of players to do that but if they can get the ball to Jermain Defoe so he’s only got one man to beat or is in a position to get a quick shot away, then you never know.

United’s away form isn’t bad to be honest so I expect them to win pretty comfortably.

RF: Your squad is obviously littered with star power but who do you see as the key men, going into this game? Anyone in a particularly good run of form?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the obvious shout. Most of our play is centred around him and getting him into a position to score goals. He’s obviously a real handful but teams have had success against him when they’ve pushed up on him outside the box. His lack of pace means you can afford to leave a little room in behind.

The other player who has really played well is Antonio Valencia. He just gets better and better in the right back position.

RF: You’re back in Europa League action soon, so how do you see Mourinho approaching this game?

TM: I think he’ll have one eye on the Europa League game with Anderlecht next Thursday but remarkably we still have an outside chance of getting into the top four. While I don’t believe we will qualify for the Champions League via the Premier League we are, for one reason or another, still in with a shout.

RF: Finally, can we have a score prediction?

TM: Sorry folks, but I think United will win 2-0.


You can check out The United End on their website and follow Tom on Twitter.