O'Neill tells side to look forward
Martin O'Neill has ordered Sunderland to forget about the points which have slipped from their grasp and concentrate on those they need to avoid relegation.
The Black Cats have collected only three of the last 21 Barclays Premier League points they have contested and firmly believe the quality of some of the performances during that run warranted a healthier return.
However, the manager knows there is little mileage in ifs, buts and might-have-beens and with Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton waiting in the wings after Manchester United's visit to the Stadium of Light, the time has come for the talking to stop.
O'Neill, whose side could only draw at home to Norwich a fortnight again despite playing for more than an hour against 10 men, said: "At some stage, you have to actually talk about points on the board.
"It's all very well saying for a couple of weeks now we should have picked up a point here, we should have done this and that.
"Within a couple of weeks, that's gone, people forget about it and don't want to talk about it anymore.
"Our recent performance here at the Stadium of Light really wasn't up to what we should have been capable of doing.
"Particularly against 10 men and not creating the number of chances we really should have done, it was really disappointing.
"We have got to get that out of the system and really go for it."
That would represent a bold approach with United 15 points clear at the top of the table and Sunderland still holding a four-point advantage, but one which is fast evaporating, over the bottom three.
In addition, the international break saw O'Neill lose his most potent weapon, striker and leading scorer Steven Fletcher, for the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage.
Fletcher's loss, along with that of skipper Lee Cattermole, who has also been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign after undergoing knee surgery, has robbed O'Neill of a significant part of the spine of his team.
In addition, midfielder David Vaughan and playmaker Stephane Sessegnon are both struggling with ankle problems and the manager will hope for better news on that front.
Manchester United return to Sunderland with Sir Alex Ferguson feeling his players have delivered the best possible response to their last-day title trauma.
As the final whistle blew on their campaign at the Stadium of Light last season, United were technically champions.
Seconds later, to the glee of the Sunderland fans who had stayed to see the drama unfold, Sergio Aguero scored the goal that changed the course of history.
At the time, such was the nature of that shattering experience, it was wondered whether United would recover.
With Ferguson in charge, it probably should never have been questioned.
"These things are hard to take," said Ferguson.
"For about 20 seconds we thought we had won it and it was snatched away from us.
"But what we have done well this season is dusted ourselves down and made a real good challenge of the league.
"The concentration levels, the commitment of the players and the team spirit have been fantastic.
"In that respect we have answered the only way we can."
The anger Ferguson felt at the Sunderland fans' over-the-top celebrations has evidently subsided, meaning there is no talk of revenge as United look to claim three of the 13 points from nine remaining fixtures to clinch title number 20.
"I don't have any issues with the Sunderland fans," he said.
"I don't think Sunderland fans wanted Manchester City to win it any more than we did.
"It goes back to modern society. You see it from supporters every week. In a corner, wherever your supporters are, the opposing fans vent their spleen to each other.
"That is what happens in modern-day football."
Ferguson was able to report no fresh injury concerns after the international break, confirming Nani, Paul Scholes and Phil Jones had recovered from their problems.
His only issues were the extended travelling undertaken by Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia.