FABIO BORINI thinks Sunderland can spoil Ryan Giggs’ perfect start in the Manchester United dug-out after proving they have the appetite for a Premier League relegation fight.
The Black Cats will head for Old Trafford on Saturday sitting just above the drop zone on goal difference having crushed Cardiff City at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
Defeating the Bluebirds, who head for Newcastle this weekend, was carried out with a confidence that had been lacking before morale-boosting performances against two of the teams competing for the Premier League title.
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Having followed up the point at Manchester City, which could easily have been three had Vito Mannone not blundered in the dying stages, with a victory at Chelsea, suddenly Sunderland can head in to a fixture at the reigning champions with renewed optimism.
Manchester United are also buoyed by a 4-0 win over Norwich City last Saturday, when Giggs’ time as caretaker manager made the ideal start following the unsuccessful time David Moyes had in charge.
Borini said: “We went to City and Chelsea with the mentality to play our game. We didn’t go there to defend. We were positive and we’ve got to do the same against Man United.
“I wouldn’t say Sunday’s win was more or less important than any other. Every game is the same, they are all for three points and every three points are crucial for us.
“Last Sunday’s win over Cardiff feels even more important because the season is almost about to finish. When we look back on it, it will look very different if we stay up.
“We’ve taken a little step and we need to take three more. We think game by game about what we have to do to win and how we need to perform. If we do that, the results will come.”
If Sunderland can become the seventh away team to win at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season then the chances of survival will have increased significantly ahead of two remaining home dates with West Brom and Swansea.
Borini said: “Things had to change. We believed and we showed how much we wanted to play in this league, which is something we didn’t do in the previous games at home. The confidence after the good results against City and Chelsea gave us the momentum to keep going.
“I said after Chelsea, the Cardiff game would be a Champions League final and we showed we can deal with the pressure. There was only one way the game could finish, and that was with a win.”
Sunderland’s ability to collect seven points from the last nine available to them was through a resilient team spirit and determination to claim results when it mattered.
The impact of Connor Wickham in those games should not be under-estimated either. Having struggled to prove his worth at the Stadium of Light since arriving as Britain’s most expensive teenager for £8.1m in June 2011, he has taken his league tally to six goals by hitting five in his last three appearances for the club.
Wickham’s performances have understandably justified his inclusion in the starting line-up and, on current displays, Sunderland would be silly to offload the 21-year-old in the summer on the cheap – something which seemed likely just weeks ago.
Borini said: “He’s a big presence on the pitch and in the box, as he showed at the two corners he scored from on Sunday. He kept the centre-halves busy and Adam Johnson and I were able to come in from out wide without having to worry about the centre-halves. We knew they would be kept busy by Connor. It puts that little bit more pressure on the full-backs, which is important.”
One player unlikely to be figuring for Sunderland again this season is midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng. The South Korean, on a season long loan from Swansea City, has been to see a specialist about tendonitis in his knee.
Swansea are interested in keeping him at the Liberty Stadium next season following the departure of Michael Laudrup, whose decision to let him go to Wearside is regarded in Wales as one of his big mistakes.
* Sunderland season card holders can take advantage of a ‘friends and family’ ticket offer for Wednesday’s visit of West Brom.
The game takes place on May 7 at 7.45pm and season card holders can buy up to two additional tickets at a reduced price of £10 each.
Standard tickets are priced at £25 for adults, £19 for over-65s and £10 for under-16s.
Supporters are advised the Stadium of Light ticket office will be open for sales on Bank Holiday Monday, May 5 from 10am until 1pm. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.safc.com/tickets or by telephone, 0871 911 1973, 24 hours a day.