MARTIN O’Neill believes Sunderland must take points off title-challengers Manchester United if they are to fulfil their own ambitions this season.
O’Neill has targeted four points from Sunderland’s final two games of the season to ensure a top-half finish after the Black Cats were unable to get the better of strugglers Wolves, Aston Villa and Bolton.
Sunderland head to Fulham on Sunday looking to end a six-game winless run, and then host second-placed Manchester United on the final day, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side desperate to pip neighbours for the Premier League crown at the death.
O’Neill told the Gazette: “To give ourselves a chance, we probably need to get four points from the last two games.
“I think it’s still realistic to finish in the top 10. We’re just outside it at the moment, but we need to beat Fulham on Sunday, and try to get something against Manchester United.
“If we had been given the offside goal against Aston Villa and won the Bolton game, we would be sitting with another four points and then been very close to being in the top 10, even without these two matches.
“But it wasn’t so.
“It means we have to go and get something against Fulham.”
Sunderland face a Fulham side who sit in ninth spot after a first ever victory at Anfield on Tuesday night gave them a four-point buffer from the bottom half of the table.
Martin Jol’s men, who were thrashed 4-0 at Everton last weekend, have suffered just one defeat in nine at home, with Sunderland last prevailing at Craven Cottage in April 2008.
“It was a big win for Fulham at Liverpool,” said O’Neill.
“They had two trips to Merseyside. One unsuccessful, the other one very good. Those points have assured them really of the top 10.
“Realistically, we have to win the game.
“Craven Cottage is a place I’ve always enjoyed, it’s very atmospheric, a terrific ground.
“Fulham play particularly well at home, so it’s a difficult game for us obviously.
“They’ve got a lot of good players, and at Craven Cottage they’re a real handful.”
He added: “I’d obviously like to win a game. We’ve just played a couple where we should have won and didn’t do so.
“But it hasn’t concerned me that amount. We’re coming towards the end of the season, and if you’d told me we’d be in this position way back in December, I’d have taken it and been delighted with it.
“We just want to finish the season with a bit of momentum.”