We were lucky enough to get a few moments with Republik of Mancunia writer Nashat Hassan (@nashat_hassan) – so we fired him a few questions. He talks Sunderland, Paolo Di Canio, United, Moyes and today’s game.
WAW: Sunderland haven’t been short of talking points this season – what is your take on our current plight and managerial position?
Nashat: It is a bizarre situation for Sunderland to find themselves in, but having said that, there are not many people out there who were surprised by Di Canio leaving the club in its current position.
I firmly believe that football is not as straightforward as many suggest, and that it is simply incorrect and slightly ignorant to state that Martin O'Neill would have kept Sunderland up last year due to the other teams around them finishing off their seasons poorly. Sometimes a “Butterfly Effect” does take place, and so we are unable to identify just how big an impact Paolo Di Canio had on Sunderland and their survival in the top flight, thus we should credit him for achieving his objectives at the club.
On the other hand, this season has been nothing short of catastrophic. It seems incredible that the board viewed Paolo as the club’s long-term manager and were prepared to provide him with such a large transfer kitty. Ideally, the club should have gotten rid in the summer, paid off his contract regardless of the fee, thanked him for his contribution and began their search elsewhere. It might sound bizarre but at least it would have brought some stability to the club, and reduced their risk of relegation.
Whoever comes in now will undoubtedly have mixed feelings over their new role – On a negative note, the new manager is taking over a club that has managed a single point from six games in the Premier League, and so, clearly, a lot of work has to be done. On the opposite end of the scale however, he is taking over from Paolo Di Canio, a despised facist who seemed like he could not do anything right at Sunderland this season. This means that the new manager can get away with murder and still be adored more than his predecessor was. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.
WAW: Where do you expect Sunderland to finish this season?
Nashat: A difficult question, and one I feel we can only answer properly once a new manager is appointed. Looking at the squad however, you have to wonder whether the players available are able to muster a big enough battle to keep the club in the Premier League. You do posses some good players in Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Sebastian Larsson, whom I always enjoy watching for some reason, but I do feel a few of the other players in the squad do not posses the qualities needed at this level. Sunderland have only scored four goals so far in the league, and looking at the side’s team sheet, you may struggle to see where the goals are going to come from, especially if Fletcher is injured or unavailable. Having said all that, I would like to think Sunderland can avoid relegation, and so our beloved Wes Brown and John O’Shea do not have to spend the last few years of their careers in the lower leagues.
WAW: Things haven’t been going quite so well for your lot either – what’s gone wrong and has it cost you your title challenge already?
Nashat: I genuinely do not think there is a single United fan out there who realistically expects us to win the league, and rightly so. We have been atrocious all season and the most painful part about it all is not that we have lost repeatedly, but more the manner in which we have been defeated.
Simply put, we have struggled to do the most basics of football correctly – We are a team without a plan or a proper system in which we can play. We have been unable to attack through the middle of the pitch due to the gigantic gap between the midfield and the strikers, our wingers are utterly pathetic, our defenders look tired and jaded, and worse still, we simply look shot of ideas all the time. As stated earlier, the losses only tell half the story. The real problem has been that, once we have gone a goal down, we have still not looked capable of scoring. For United fans, that is unthinkable. Spoilt, I know.
WAW: Is David Moyes the right man?
Nashat: I really thought he was at one point, but I am starting to have my doubts. Now, do not get me wrong – I am not asking for him to get the sack or anything, but my main concern is whether he can maintain a healthy dressing room because, as of now, it seems like the players are losing confidence in him and are generally dissatisfied – notably Robin van Persie. The fans are losing their confidence too.
If, and it is a big IF, Moyes is backed in the following transfer windows and he is able to bring in some real quality to our team, then maybe he can actually do well but, as of now, I am yet to remain convinced by him, as are many.
WAW: Who worries you most in Sunderland’s squad?
Nashat: Sebastian Larsson is a player I like and whom I feel we will have to be wary of due to his ability to convert set pieces. I hope that we can keep our fouls to a minimum around the box, and so it is good news that, apparently, Fellaini has not travelled with the United squad.
Having said that, the players who scare me the most do not even play for Sunderland but instead, for us! Anderson, Ashley Young and Valencia – Every United fan’s nightmare..
WAW: Finally, how do you expect the game to pan out and what is your prediction on the result?
Nashat: I would like to think that we would be able to salvage a 2-1 win for ourselves, possibly because of a late goal. I am expecting Sunderland to give it their all and take the game to the wire, but eventually our strikers will have the last laugh. A goal for Robin van Persie, and a late winner by Hernandez.
Thanks to Nashat for his time and insightful views...let's hope he's wrong about the result though...