Tag Archives: bramble

Robin Van Persie hails Manchester United"s team of winners

Van Persie hails United's team of winners as they edge closer to title

PUBLISHED:

15:35 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:23 GMT, 30 March 2013

Manchester United moved another step closer to the Barclays Premier League title as they won 1-0 at Sunderland, and striker Robin van Persie was quick to praise the attitude of his team-mates.

United are 18 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City as a result and it would take a collapse of dramatic proportions for them to throw the title away.

Van Persie claimed the only goal today, although replays suggested his shot was not going in until Titus Bramble put it into his own net, but the striker was not too concerned.

Almost there: Robin Van Persie celebrates United's win

Almost there: Robin Van Persie celebrates United's win

Get in there: Robin Van Persie celebrates with team-mates

Get in there: Robin Van Persie celebrates with team-mates

'We got the three points, we knew it would be tough because Sunderland work hard and we had to dig in, but we deserved it,' he told Sky Sports 2.

'It didn't matter who scored today, it was all about the three points.

'This team is full of winners, everyone knows what they have to do and it was never in doubt for me. I was confident we would win.'

A title coronation seems inevitable in
the next couple of weeks and midfielder Michael Carrick is anticipating
winning another medal.

'We played some good football today, even if we didn't get as many goalscoring opportunities as we'd have liked,' he added.

'It was all about coming here and winning. We're getting closer and it's one game less. We have to keep going.'

Keeping an eye on it: Van Persie sees his goal go in off Bramble

Keeping an eye on it: Van Persie sees his goal go in off Bramble

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland captain John O' Shea tackles Manchester United's Van Persie

Eyes on the ball: Sunderland captain John O' Shea tackles Manchester United's Van Persie

United next face Chelsea in the FA Cup replay on Monday and Van Persie has warned fans not to expect a classic.

It is the kind of scheduling that has England's European counterparts scratching their heads in bewilderment.

And Van Persie points out it is difficult for the players to reach a high level of performance twice in such a short period of time.

'It is not ideal,' he told MUTV.

'Normally on the second day your muscles are quite bad but now we have to play at this certain time.

'It is a shame but we can't do anything about it because there are Champions League games in midweek and Chelsea are still in the Europa League.

'We just have to deal with it.

'People have to realise they can't expect a great game of football because it is not possible.

'If it happens I am glad, but don't expect it because these games are just too close to each other.'

Hectic schedule: Jonny Evans admits United are heading into the unknown during their packed Easter period

Hectic schedule: Jonny Evans admits United are heading into the unknown during their packed Easter period

Van Persie was speaking after
United's 1-0 win at Sunderland, which maintains their 15-point advantage
over Manchester City with just eight games remaining.

City will be the opponents for
Monday's victors at Stamford Bridge, with Van Persie eager to get his
hands on a trophy he won with Arsenal but United have not lifted since
2004.

'It has been a while,' he said.

'It has been nine years since we last won it and we want to win the double.

'We made a big step today but we want to go for both. We have a chance to reach the semi-final against City.'

Jonny Evans admitted Manchester
United will head into the unknown as they attempt to book an FA Cup
semi-final place just 48 hours after strengthening their grip on the
Barclays Premier League title.

Evans said: 'I have never really been in that situation before, so it will be new to probably most of us.

'It's
just all about tonight. We will probably go back and get a good
recovery session in and make sure we have done everything we can
physically to make sure we are right for the game on Monday.'

Evans
will make the trip to Stamford Bridge hoping for a start after getting
his chance on Wearside as a first-half substitute when full-back Rafael
da Silva limped off.

Chris
Smalling moved from central defence to right-back to accommodate the
25-year-old as aUnited defence which had been criticised earlier in the
campaign recorded its sixth successive league clean sheet.

Diving in: Alex Buttner slides in on Sunderland's Simon Mignolet

Diving in: Alex Buttner slides in on Sunderland's Simon Mignolet

Asked about the difficulty of
competing with Ferdinand and Vidic for a place in the heart of the back
four, he said: 'You are always competing.

'Even if one of those two isn't fit,
you have got Chris Smalling, who started at centre-back today. I'm sure
he was disappointed to get moved to right-back, it's not his favourite
position, but for the sake of the team, he did that.

'Phil
Jones is another one. The competition is all over the pitch. You look
at the players who didn't start today or have been left behind – it's
some team, really.'

Monday
night's game represents an opportunity to keep hopes of yet another
Double alive with United marching inexorably towards the league title.

Their
recent surge – they have now lost only once in 22 games in all
competitions, and that in controversial circumstances to Real Madrid in
the Champions League – has been based on defensive resilience rather
than attacking flair, and Evans admits it is a pleasant change for the
men at the back to receive the plaudits normally reserved for their
attacking colleagues.

He said with a smile: “You have probably noticed we haven't scored as many goals. It's getting that fine balance.

'We will take it the way we are at the minute. Especially as a defender, it's better to keep clean sheets than having the forwards getting all the glory, I suppose, so we are just happy.

'Clean sheets, that's what we want as defenders, so we are delighted with that.'

Sir Alex Ferguson used the depth of his squad at the Stadium of Light with Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney not even making the 18.

Da Silva must be a doubt after being unable to continue against Sunderland, while Vidic was left clutching his back after a rugged challenge with striker Danny Graham, although he made it through to the final whistle.

Arsenal"s Jack Wilshere was forced off with a thigh injury against Sunderland

Arsenal face anxious wait over Wilshere as England star hobbles off at Sunderland

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

16:42 GMT, 9 February 2013

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UPDATED:

09:54 GMT, 10 February 2013

Jack Wilshere was forced off during his Arsenal's 1-0 victory against Sunderland with a thigh injury after being bodychecked by Alfred N'Diaye.

There didn't seem to be a great deal
of contact from the new Sunderland signing, but it was enough for Wilshere to be replaced by Abou Diaby as Arsenal looked to keep hold of their lead.

Arsene Wenger was visibly furious with the physical nature of Sunderland's tackling, as his playmaker was left on the floor on more than one occasion.

After the match the Arsenal manager said that Wilshere 'can't walk properly now', but hopes he will only be out for around four or five days.

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Down: Jack Wilshere was in distress when receiving treatment after the collision

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Furious: As Wilshere hobbled off, Arsene Wenger was irate with the referee

Laurent Koscielny, who was initially
named on the Arsenal teamsheet, had to be withdrawn just before kick-off
after limping out of the warm up with a calf injury.

He had passed a fitness test before
the game, but was unable to take to the pitch, meaning Bacary Sagna had
to play centre back and Carl Jenkinson came in at right back.

Arsenal were also made to play the last 30 minutes without Carl Jenkinson, who was sent off for two
yellow cards, the second being a silly lunge on Stephane Sessegnon.

He will be suspended for their FA Cup fifth-round clash against Blackburn on Saturday.

They
held on to pick up a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light after Santi
Cazorla had put the Gunners ahead in the first half with a low shot past
Simon Mignolet.

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Fighting: Wilshere and N'Diaye go head to head for the ball

Smash: Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Smash: Titus Bramble came in with a heavy tackle on the Arsenal midfielder

Wilshere's injury comes the day after Wenger had said that the England star needed to be protected from burnout and future injuries.

He had played a leading role in their 2-1 win when Brazil visited Wembley, outshining the likes of Ronaldinho and Neymar.

However Wenger was more philosophical: 'It is not just the physical aspect, but the mental pressure every time he plays. We will have to manage him well physically to make sure he doesn't face that burnout.

'I had in fact expected Jack to play only a part of the game on
Wednesday, but it didn't happen and because of his quality he will be
exposed to that, the overuse of his quality, and you can understand that.

'He will have to be managed like everyone else.'

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Competitive: Wilshere and Lee Cattermole getting to grips with each other in the middle of the park

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Winner: Santi Cazorla's strike was the only goal of the game

Sunderland 0 QPR 0 – match report: Harry Redknapp"s first game

Sunderland 0 QPR 0: Redknapp can't earn win from first game at helm of Rangers

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UPDATED:

02:09 GMT, 28 November 2012

The peace and quiet of those cliffs at Bournemouth may seem very inviting to Harry Redknapp this morning.

This was his return to management and to the Barclays Premier League, his first game as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers, but these were 90 minutes that would make a lot of folk turn away.

Nil-nil, nothing-nothing, nowt-nowt; however it is put, it was dreadful.

Top stop: Rob Green made a wonderful save in an otherwise drab affair

Top stop: Rob Green made a wonderful save in an otherwise drab affair

Resolute: Rob Green prevents Steven Fletcher from prodding a shot home

Resolute: Rob Green prevents Steven Fletcher from prodding a shot home

MATCH FACTS

Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Rose, Cattermole (Colback 6), Larsson, Gardner (Saha 78), Johnson (McClean 70), Sessegnon, Fletcher,

Subs not used: Westwood, Bramble, Vaughan, Campbell

Booked: Cuellar

QPR: Julio Cesar (Green 46), Traore, Hill, Nelsen, Bosingwa, Diakite (Park Ji-sung 65), Taarabt (Wright-Phillips 77), Granero, M'bia, Cisse, Mackie

Subs not used: Ferdinand, Fabio, Derry, Hoilett

Booked: Diakite, Hill, Mackie

Referee: Andre Marriner

Attendance: 36,513

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But then, even the most dramatic acts
of escapology sometimes start with the undoing of a tough knot and what
Redknapp could take from a wet night on Wearside was a first clean
sheet and a first point.

It's a start. Arresting a run of
three defeats is one thing, and Redknapp said he was more 'optimistic'
than he had been while watching QPR lose 3-1 at Old Trafford last
Saturday.

But there is still no win after 14
attempts and though a point was welcome, Aston Villa's three at home to
Reading meant Rangers' situation at the foot of the table has actually
worsened.

Seven points off safety at kick-off has become eight. Villa visit Loftus Road on Saturday.

That has the makings of a crunch game
but from here on in they will all be until QPR reach some kind of safe
ground. Yet Redknapp's reaction was understandable.

He only arrived at the training ground on Sunday, the morning after another loss, and amid tales of a fractured dressing room.

Welcome back: Harry Redknapp was on the touchline for the first time for Queens Park Rangers

Welcome back: Harry Redknapp was on the touchline for the first time for Queens Park Rangers

Hungry, Joe Harry Redknapp was joined by Joe Jordan (left) on the bench

Hungry, Joe Harry Redknapp was joined by Joe Jordan (left) on the bench

Enjoying it Redknapp looked less than amused as he watched his side draw 0-0 at the Stadium of Light

Enjoying it Redknapp looked less than amused as he watched his side draw 0-0 at the Stadium of Light

Last Friday morning Mark Hughes was
still the manager. If at times QPR were careless here, they never looked
concerned to the point of vulnerability against a Sunderland team who
are struggling as much as the Hoops to find some rhythm.

Martin O'Neill has a real puzzle on
his hands after a result that left Sunderland's run in the league at
four wins in the last 27.

The home side are bereft of momentum
and if one of Redknapp's messages to his new charges is that Sunderland
can be caught, then you could not accuse him of false encouragement.

Sunderland created two clear chances,
both for Steven Fletcher. The first came after 41 minutes, when Adam
Johnson supplied a neat pass, but Julio Cesar made a smart block.

That was to be Cesar's first and last
real action of the game. Redknapp said the Brazilian had torn a muscle
in his groin and that led to the most eyebrow-raising moment of the
night, when Rob Green appeared on the touchline to be introduced as a
substitute.

Flair player: Adel Taarabt was reunited with former Spurs boss Radknapp

Flair player: Adel Taarabt was reunited with former Spurs boss Radknapp

Green was marginalised by Cesar's
unanticipated arrival in the August window but will now be expected to
step up and reclaim his reputation as well as his place.

Given the scrutiny Green attracts
post-England, he will have been delighted that when Fletcher met a Seb
Larsson corner at pace and with power, he was sufficiently sharp to get
down to his left and first get a firm hand on the ball and then a
follow-up smother.

Other than that – and a kick in the
face from Fletcher – Green was untroubled. Admittedly Sunderland lost
their captain and driving force Lee Cattermole after only six minutes,
but Sunderland were too slow when they won the ball and the visitors
were able to funnel back.

This QPR did diligently. When he had
described Rangers' record of four points from 13 games as 'embarrassing'
on Monday, Redknapp had added that he wanted his players to at least
show willing in their first game under him.

'Run about,' as he put it. It is minimum requirement stuff but necessary in a team with wilted confidence.

The new manager made three changes to
the XI that lost at Manchester United, stiffening midfield with Samba
Diakite, who impressed the new manager.

How he thinks of Adel Taarabt is
another matter. The Moroccan was sold to QPR when Redknapp was Spurs
manager but the gifted but erratic attacker was selected on the left of
midfield.

In the first half that meant Taarabt
was close to where Redknapp stood in his new club raincoat. High up in
the stands 375 (now that is embarrassing) travelling fans chanted his
name; beside him in the dugout sat Joe Jordan.

Drab: Simon Mignolet checks the turf during the match

Drab: Simon Mignolet checks the turf during the match

Tricky: Danny Rose surges forward with the ball

Tricky: Danny Rose surges forward with the ball

First there was the usual scrum of
photographers. Taarabt produced a few early tricks but in the 20th
minute could be seen tracking back to rob Fletcher.

That is the attitude expected – by Hughes as well as Redknapp – and Taarabt was trying at the other end, too.

It was his 38th-minute pass which
teed up Jamie Mackie. The Scot was clean through on Simon Mignolet but
the goalkeeper blocked.

The rebound fell to Taarabt, who
shaped to pick his spot, but just as Redknapp was ready to jump for joy,
Phil Bardsley booted the ball clear. The conditions were worsening,
though the pitch held up despite the torrential rain.

But the quality of fare did not
blossom. Taarabt finally gave way on 77 minutes, replaced by Shaun
Wright- Phillips. Three minutes later and Wright-Phillips was in the
Sunderland box drilling in a low shot.

Mignolet got behind it. Before and
after that there was simply not enough creativity. The focus was all on
QPR last night and will remain so until they start winning.

But there are questions to be asked
of Sunderland, too. It's early to mention this but last season 37 points
were needed to stay up.

Meeting and greeting: Redknapp signed autographs before kick-off

Meeting and greeting: Redknapp signed autographs before kick-off

Collision: Rose and Jamie Mackie (right) go for the ball

Collision: Rose and Jamie Mackie (right) go for the ball

Turnaround: Redknapp will be hoping to improve on QPR's poor form

Turnaround: Redknapp will be hoping to improve on QPR's poor form

STADIUM OF LIGHT MATCH ZONE
Back in fashion: Djibril Cisse

CATTERMOLE RETURNS TOO SOON

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill took a gamble on the fitness of captain Lee Cattermole in a bid to inspire a side desperately in need of leadership.

But the midfielder, who is nursing severe bruising in a bone in his right leg, lasted just six minutes before he sat on the ground and waved his arms to the physios and admitted defeat.

His replacement was Jack Colback, dropped for the first time this season by O'Neill.

IT'S SIMPLE, SIMON IS SORRY

Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet felt obliged to apologise to team-mates and fans after his rare howler in Saturday's defeat by West Bromwich led to Shane Long's goal giving the visitors a 2-0 halftime lead.

The Belgium No 1 still received a notably warm welcome from home supporters before last night's kick-off. He duly proved his worth with a superb stop to deny Jamie Mackie.

BOWEN AND NIEDZWIECKI NEXT TO GO

Mark Hughes's trusted aides Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki are poised to follow the axed manager out of Loftus Road. The coaching duo were not on the bench last night.

The QPR hierarchy had explored the notion of keeping either of the pair in Redknapp's new backroom team but they are now in dialogue over severance packages and will be replaced by Redknapp lieutenants Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan.

CISSE BACK IN FASHION ON WEARSIDE

They hardly set the world alight during their time on Wearside but Rangers pair Djibril Cisse and Anton Ferdinand both got a warm welcome from Sunderland supporters.

Flamboyant striker Cisse, who opened an exclusive clothes shop in Newcastle during his brief stay, almost took the lead for the visitors with a shot from the edge of the area.

Ferdinand, meanwhile, watched the game from the bench – a situation he may have to get used to.

O'NEILL TURNS GROUNDSMAN

Few areas have been as badly hit by the rainstorms as the North East.

So concerned was Martin O'Neill by the prospect of the game falling to the adverse weather that he visited the Stadium of Light on Monday morning to see the pitch for himself.

His presence among the groundsmen – whom he exonerated – followed the postponement of Sunderland's first home game against Reading, now to be replayed on Tuesday, December 11.

COLIN YOUNG

VIDEO: SUNDERLAND 0 QPR 0: MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

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Wes Brown out until 2013 with knee injury

Blow for Sunderland as Brown is ruled out until the new year with knee injury

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UPDATED:

14:45 GMT, 31 October 2012

Crocked: Brown

Crocked: Brown

Sunderland defender Wes Brown looks set to miss the rest of this year after suffering a setback on his recovery from the knee injury which has forced him to miss the start of the season.

The 33-year-old former Manchester United centre back broke down in training last week and has travelled to see a specialist in London for scans and treatment.

Brown, who has had a troubled Sunderland career since his move from Old Trafford in summer 2011, was injured during a pre-season game in South Korea and was close to a return to the Sunderland first team squad a fortnight ago.

But he suffered further complications to his knee during a training session and now looks unlikely to play again this year.

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill said:
'Wes had a setback in his recovery. He was training with us and doing
well when he had a setback and we will assess how much of a setback it
is.

'He wants to see a specialist who was on holiday last week so he hadn’t ability to do that. The fella is down in London, he knows Wes inside out and he is the man Wes wants to see.'

The news is a further blow for O’Neill who is also without centre-half Titus Bramble who has a hip problem. His only cover for first-choice pair John O’Shea and Carlos Cuellar is Matt Kilgallon who was on the bench for last night’s Capital One Cup defeat to Middlesbrough.

Sunderland 1 Wigan 0 match report: Steven Fletcher strike win it for Black Cats

Sunderland 1 Wigan 0: Fletcher strike ends Black Cats woeful winless run

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UPDATED:

16:50 GMT, 29 September 2012

Steven Fletcher fired Sunderland to their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season with his fifth goal in four games.

The 25-year-old turned James McClean's 51st-minute cross-shot past keeper Ali Al Habsi to win a match of little quality as 10-man Wigan were made to pay almost instantly for Jordi Gomez's rush of blood.

Gomez was sent off just two minutes into the second half for a dangerous lunge at defender Danny Rose and a game in which his side had enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes turned on its head.

Listen up: Fletcher celebrates scoring the winning goal early in the first half

Listen up: Fletcher celebrates scoring the winning goal early in the first half

Match facts

Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose, Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher.

Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Wickham, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Meyler, Saha.

Goal: Fletcher

Wigan: Al Habsi, Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa, Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour, Kone, Gomez, Maloney.

Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Watson, Di Santo, McManaman, Boselli, Miyaichi.

Booked: McCarthy

Sent off: Gomez

Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

Premier League results, fixtures and table

Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill will
have been delighted to see his team end a 12-game wait for a league
victory dating back to last season, but it might have been very
different had it not been for Gomez's lack of discipline and keeper
Simon Mignolet.

The Belgium international pulled off
vital first-half saves from James McCarthy and Arouna Kone to keep the
visitors at bay as the home side struggled to find any real rhythm.

However, the sending-off gave them fresh impetus and they never looked like surrendering their lead.

The game represented a contest
between a club with no Premier League win in a dozen attempts and
another with just one this season, and the 37,742 spectators who
attended perhaps should not have expected a thriller.

Sunderland were boosted by the return
of England winger Adam Johnson, who had passed a late fitness test on
his thigh injury, but deprived of the services of skipper Lee Cattermole
following his midweek dismissal.

Cattermole's absence proved key
before the break as Sebastian Larsson and Jack Colback struggled to get
to grips with McCarthy and Shaun Maloney, who combined well with Kone
and Gomez to stretch the home defence repeatedly.

Indeed, the visitors could have been
ahead with just four minutes gone when Republic of Ireland international
McCarthy was allowed to waltz through a statuesque Black Cats defence,
only to see his left-foot shot blocked by Mignolet.

From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared only as far as Gomez on the edge of the box, and he blasted a volley over.

Mignolet came to the rescue once
again with 15 minutes on the clock when Jean Beausejour crossed from the
left to pick out Ivorian at the far post.

Red alert: Gones was shown a straight red for this challenge on Rose

Red alert: Gones was shown a straight red for this challenge on Rose

Red alert: Gones was shown a straight red for this challenge on Rose

Red alert: Gones was shown a straight red for this challenge on Rose

He seemed certain to score, but Mignolet somehow managed to bundle his effort from point-blank range around the post.

For their part, Sunderland created
little of note with in-form striker Fletcher feeding off scraps for long
periods with wide-men Johnson and McClean unable to provide him with
any meaningful supply.

However, they came close to taking
the lead with 28 minutes played when Sebastian Larsson's free-kick from
the left evaded attackers and defenders alike as it sped across the
penalty area before being hacked off the line by Ivan Ramis.

But the half finished as it had
started with Wigan threatening once again two minutes before the whistle
when McCarthy once again made the most of the time and space he was
afforded to send a long-range effort inches wide with Mignolet diving
desperately to his left.

Roberto Martinez will no doubt have
been happy as his side returned to the dressing room, but his mood will
have changed markedly within two minutes of the restart.

Firing blanks: Wigan couldn't make the breakthrough in the controversial clash at the Stadium of Light

Firing blanks: Wigan couldn't make the breakthrough in the controversial clash at the Stadium of Light

There seemed to be little danger as
left-back Danny Rose picked up possession on halfway, but Gomez leapt
into an ugly challenge to leave the Sunderland man in a heap and referee
Howard Webb with little option to produce a red card.

The home side made their numerical
advantage count with four minutes when McClean broke into the box and
appeared to drag his shot across the face of goal.

Whatever his intention, the ball fell perfectly for Fletcher, who swept it home without a second thought to break the deadlock.

O'Neill's men were suddenly
re-energised and immediately set about the task of killing the game off
with Stephane Sessegnon forcing Ali Al Habsi into a 54th-minute save
before Craig Gardner blasted over from long range.

Martinez sent on striker Franco di Santo for Maloney on the hour, but the game was rapidly slipping from his side's grasp.

Neither side was able to exert any
measure of control as time ran down, but Sunderland held out in what was
an untidy conclusion to claim three valuable points.

James McFadden hopes to join Sunderland

O'Neill ready to hand McFadden lifeline with short-term deal at Sunderland

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UPDATED:

10:11 GMT, 20 September 2012

Martin O'Neill is set to offer James McFadden the chance to resurrect his career at Sunderland.

All smiles: James McFadden is training with Sunderland

All smiles: James McFadden is training with Sunderland

The 29-year-old free agent hopes to earn a short-term deal after being invited to train with the Black Cats.

McFadden has been without a club since his release this summer by Everton.

The former Motherwell favourite turned down a chance to return to Fir Park and an offer to join Aberdeen in the hope of staying in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Sunderland’s Titus Bramble is sweating on a new contract offer.

The defender’s current 30,000-a-week deal expires at the end of the season and talks on a new one are yet to start.

Bramble said: 'I’m very happy and I want to stay.

'If I’m playing games, I don’t see why I won’t get offered a new contract. The challenge is to play as many as possible.'

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0 – match report

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0: Life after RVP proves hard to bear as Gunners draw blank

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UPDATED:

16:05 GMT, 18 August 2012

Arsenal started life after Robin van Persie with a frustrating goalless draw against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium.

The Holland striker – whose 30 goals had dragged the Gunners into third place last season – yesterday completed a 24million move to Manchester United, having made it clear earlier in the summer he would not be signing a new deal.

Arsene Wenger's side, boasting summer signings Lukas Podolski, the German striker, and impressive Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla in the starting XI, enjoyed plenty of possession, but lacked a killer instinct in the final third.

No way through: Arsenal dominated possession but were unable to force their way past Sunderland

No way through: Arsenal dominated possession but were unable to force their way past Sunderland

MATCH FACTS

ARSENAL: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Gervinho, Podolski. Subs not used: Mannone, Andre Santos, Giroud, Ramsey, Djourou, Coquelin, Arshavin.

SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Richardson, Larsson, Colback, Cattermole, McClean, Sessegnon, Campbell. Subs not used: Westwood, Wickham, Kilgallon, Meyler, Bramble, Saha, Elmohamady.

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

Check out all the latest, stats, facts and table from the Premier League

When a clear opening eventually came
their way late in the second half, substitute Olivier Giroud, who netted
21 goals for Montpellier last season, fired wide.

While there were plenty of positives
to take from the workrate of his side, manager Arsene Wenger will know
there must be an improvement in conversion rate if Arsenal are to
challenge over the course of the season.

New skipper Thomas Vermaelen received
a warm welcome from the returning Arsenal faithful, along with summer
signings Cazorla and Podolski in the starting line-up.

It was a lively start by the hosts, but Sunderland remained dangerous on the counter through Stephane Sessegnon.

Bright start: Lukas Podolski put in a solid hour-long shift up front for his new club

Bright start: Lukas Podolski put in a solid hour-long shift up front for his new club

On six minutes, the Arsenal defence
was opened up as James McClean slipped into the penalty area, but his
shot was blocked smartly by Wojciech Szczesny.

Spain international Cazorla, signed
from Malaga, almost made himself an instant hero when he charged
forwards and unleashed a 20-yard effort which Black Cats keeper Simon
Mignolet beat away.

Sunderland created another decent
opening when the ball was worked to Jack Colback at the edge of the
Arsenal area, but his low effort was straight at the keeper.

Attacking threat: The likes of Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla all banged on the Sunderland door

Attacking threat: The likes of Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla all banged on the Sunderland door

Attacking threat: The likes of Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla all banged on the Sunderland door

Attacking threat: The likes of Abou Diaby, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla all banged on the Sunderland door

Gervinho skipped away down the left
and rode a couple of tackles before cutting the ball back across goal,
only for Cazorla to drill it wide.

Arsenal continued to press Sunderland deeper as Abou Diaby's low, 20-yard effort was touched around the post.

The visitors, however, set up with two banks of four and were hard to break down.

Sunderland also looked to get forwards themselves, with the best success again coming down the left flank though Sessegnon.

Running man: Theo Walcott was a thorn in the side of the visitors' defence for the most part

Running man: Theo Walcott was a thorn in the side of the visitors' defence for the most part

Arsenal finally pulled some passes
together as Theo Walcott was played into the right and his cutback to
the near post was hacked behind before Podolski could get there.

The second half opened the same
pattern, with the hosts were left frustrated by some stern defending as
much as their own poor choice of final pass.

Old friends: Sebastian Larsson, formerly of Arsenal, tried his best to give Sunderland a presence in attack

Old friends: Sebastian Larsson, formerly of Arsenal, tried his best to give Sunderland a presence in attack

On 57 minutes, Kieran Richardson
upended Walcott some 25 yards out. Podolski took the free-kick, but the
German's effort flew just over.

As the hour mark passed, Sessegnon was replaced by Louis Saha, signed on a free transfer after he left Tottenham.

The Gunners also made a change when Giroud came on for his debut, Podolski making way.

Wenger then aimed to inject some
fresh ideas into midfield as Wales captain Aaron Ramsey – part of the
Team GB Olympic squad this summer – came on for the hard-working Diaby.

Don't forget us: Jack Colback was at the heart of the good things being done by the Mackems

Don't forget us: Jack Colback was at the heart of the good things being done by the Mackems

Don't forget us: Jack Colback was at the heart of the good things being done by the Mackems

Sunderland continued to sit back, but
Arsenal failed to make the most of their possession heading into the
final 15 minutes, when Walcott was replaced by Andrey Arshavin, the
Russian whose future remains uncertain following a loan spell at former
club Zenit St Petersburg last season.

With nine minutes left, Cazorla
played in Giroud, but the French striker, so clinical in Ligue 1 last
season, fired wide from 10 yards.

Arsenal pressed in search of a winner
during four minutes of stoppage time, but had to be content with just a
point – which was greeted by boos from some home supporters.

Titus Bramble cleared of sexual assault

Sunderland defender Bramble walks free after being cleared of sexual assault

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UPDATED:

14:18 GMT, 31 May 2012

Titus Bramble has been cleared of sexually assaulting two women.

The Sunderland defender was found not guilty by a jury at Teesside Crown Court following a four-day trial.

Bramble, 30, was accused of groping a woman in a nightclub in Yarm, Teesside, before sexually assaulting another in a taxi home.

In the clear: The 30-year-old leaves court on Thursday afternoon

In the clear: The 30-year-old leaves court on Thursday afternoon

Cleared: Bramble was found not guilty

Cleared: Bramble was found not guilty

Bramble told jurors that one of the complainants was 'touchy feelie and flirty' and kissed him 'passionately' as they shared a taxi from the Cross Keys nightclub.

The Sunderland defender said she kissed him and put her hand on his crotch during the journey.

He said: 'We were kissing. We kissed a couple of times passionately. She was touching me and putting my hand on her leg.'

But the complainant claimed he twice grabbed her hand and put it on his crotch and placed his hand between her legs, which made her 'scared'.

The taxi driver believed something was wrong and drove the pair to a police station where Bramble was arrested, the jurors were told.

Case for the defence: The Sunderland defender was found not guilty by a jury

Case for the defence: The Sunderland defender was found not guilty by a jury

Bramble's defence lawyer Ronnie Jaffa said the woman made the allegation to “save face” after she regretted kissing him.

The other woman, who was in the Cross Keys, said she felt someone grope her bottom and turned to see Bramble.

Bramble, of Wynyard near Middlesbrough, always denied it was him. She reported the incident after the other woman claimed she was assaulted in a taxi by the Sunderland star, which they caught in Yarm on the same night – September 28 last year.

The footballer, who has played for Ipswich, Newcastle and Wigan Athletic, consistently denied all charges.

Titus Bramble says woman he is accused of sexually assaulting was "touchy feely and flirty"

Bramble tells court that woman he is accused of sexually assaulting was 'touchy feely and flirty'

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UPDATED:

14:35 GMT, 30 May 2012

Sunderland defender Titus Bramble said a woman who accused him of sexual assault was 'touchy feely and flirty' and kissed him 'passionately' as they shared a taxi from a nightclub.

The Sunderland centre-back told a court she put her hand on his crotch during the journey and at no point did she tell him to stop.

On trial: Titus Bramble (left) arrives at Teeside Crown Court on Wednesday

On trial: Titus Bramble (left) arrives at Teeside Crown Court on Wednesday

Bramble, 30, is on trial accused of grabbing a woman's bottom in the Cross Keys nightclub in Yarm, Teesside, then repeatedly sexually assaulting another woman in a taxi home.

He denies all four charges.

Giving evidence at Teesside Crown Court, Bramble said of the second alleged assault in the cab: “We were kissing. We kissed a couple of times passionately.

'She was touching me and putting my hand on her leg.'

He said the woman, who he had met before, also touched his crotch.

Bramble said her mood then changed, adding: 'She then said that she wanted to go to an address and that she wasn't happy.'

The taxi driver believed something was wrong and drove the pair to a police station, jurors have been told.

In action: Sunderland player Bramble (right) tussles with Wayne Rooney

In action: Sunderland player Bramble (right) tussles with Wayne Rooney

The court has already heard evidence from both complainants.

The first, who was in the Cross Keys, said she felt someone grope her bottom and turned to see Bramble “smirking”, which made her “very uncomfortable”.

Bramble denies it was him.

She reported the incident after the other woman claimed she was assaulted in a taxi by the Sunderland star, which they caught in Yarm on the same night – September 28 last year.

During the journey, he put his hand up her dress without her consent and twice forced her hand on to his groin, which made her “really scared”, she told the jury.

Taxi driver Abid Hussain yesterday said he felt the woman 'needed help' so he diverted to Stockton police station.

The alleged victim locked herself in a toilet and Bramble, of Wynyard near Middlesbrough, was arrested.

The footballer, who has played for Ipswich, Newcastle and Wigan Athletic, made no comment during police interviews, except to deny the charges.
The trial, scheduled to end on Friday, continues.

Titus Bramble set for sexual assault trial

Bramble trial set to begin with Sunderland defender accused of sexual assault

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UPDATED:

08:08 GMT, 28 May 2012

Bramble: Has pleaded not guilty to the charges

Bramble: Has pleaded not guilty to the charges

Sunderland defender Titus Bramble will go on trial on Monday accused of sexually assaulting two women.

The 30-year-old is charged in connection with alleged incidents during a night out in Yarm, Teesside, on September 28 last year.

The defender, of Wellington Drive, Wynyard, near Middlesbrough, faces four charges – all of which he denies.

In the first he is accused of indecently touching one alleged victim.

In the second count, he is alleged to have touched another woman’s leg and moved his hand towards her crotch without consent.

In the last two counts, he is accused of twice placing her hand on his crotch.

Bramble started his career at Ipswich Town and also played for Newcastle and Wigan Athletic before signing for Sunderland.

He is due to go on trial at Teesside Crown Court.

On trial: Sunderland's defender is faced with four charges of sexual assault

On trial: Sunderland's defender is faced with four charges of sexual assault