David Moyes' men are under pressure after losing at home to West Brom and take on a Black Cats side who were much improved despite defeat against Liverpool
The last time that scenario occurred United fell to defeats against Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham before going on to finish third in the table.
David Moyes has found himself under pressure after his side suffered a 4-1 demolition to rivals Manchester City, before falling to a shock 2-1 defeat to West Brom at Old Trafford last Saturday.
Wayne Rooney thought he had rescued a point for United when he cancelled out Morgan Amalfitano's classy chip.
But Saido Berahino made it three league defeats from six for Moyes' men.
Captain Nemanja Vidic has urged the team to respond by going on a winning run following their lacklustre start to the campaign and he stressed the importance of Saturday's encounter at the Stadium of Light.
"I think this is a more important game," he said. "We need to get a few wins in a row.
"The situation is not that bad compared to the teams who you would think will also be competing for the title, or at least the ones who were the favourites.
"We know we have to improve. We know we have to work hard and stick together on the pitch."
England international Rooney was absent for the club's 1-1 Champions League draw against Shakhtar Donetsk with a swollen shin, but he will be available for the match.
However, centre-back Rio Ferdinand (groin) remains an injury doubt.
Kevin Ball retains his place in the Sunderland dug-out, with the club yet to appoint a permanent replacement for Italian Paolo Di Canio.
The 48-year-old saw his team fall to a 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool on Sunday, but will take confidence from a much-improved performance.
But history is against his charges, with Sunderland taking just eight points from a possible 72 from their Premier League encounters with Manchester United.
Their cause was not helped with the news that striker Steven Fletcher could miss up to six weeks with a shoulder injury, while defensive trio Phil Bardsley (foot), Wes Brown (Calf) and Andrea Dossena (thigh) remain sidelined.