Sunderland - Manchester United Preview: Premier League leaders seek sixth-straight clean sheet

Martin O'Neill, who has not tasted victory since January, was dealt another blow this week as Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole were ruled out for the rest of the season


Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose

Johnson, Larsson, N'Diaye, McClean

De Gea
Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra

Carrick, Giggs
Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa

Sunderland's survival hopes were dealt a significant blow this week after it was confirmed that both Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole would miss the rest of the season.

Fletcher is the Black Cats' top scorer with 11 league goals this season but the attacking burden will now fall upon January signing Danny Graham.

Stephane Sessegnon is expected to return from a groin injury and is likely to support Graham in a 4-4-1-1 formation. David Vaughan (groin) should be available but Carlos Cuellar (ankle) is a doubt and Wes Brown (knee) is injured.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, could ring the changes ahead of his side's FA Cup quarter-final replay against Chelsea on Monday.

Chicharito is likely to start in attack but Ferguson may not risk resting both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. Nani (hamstring), Paul Scholes (knee) and Phil Jones (ankle) are nearing returns after spells on the sidelines but this match may come too soon for them.

  • Steven Fletcher has scored a third of Sunderland's 33 league goals so far this season, a larger percentage than Robin van Persie has contributed for Manchester United (28 per cent).
  • While they have struggled to score goals, only Stoke have a better defensive record than the Black Cats of clubs currently lying in the bottom half of the Premier League.
  • Sunderland beat Manchester City both this season and last at the Stadium of Light but have not toppled United on home turf in the top flight since 1997.
  • Adam Johnson's performances since his move from Manchester City have often come under scrutiny this season but the winger has created more chances (44) than any of his team-mates in 2012-13.
  • Having collected 74 points from 29 games, Manchester United remain on course to break Chelsea's record Premier League points tally of 95.
  • Despite suffering slip-ups in the FA Cup and Champions League, United have kept clean sheets in five consecutive league matches.
  • Left-back Patrice Evra (pictured right) has played more minutes (2,430) than any other United player in the league this season.
  • No player in the top flight has hit the woodwork more than Van Persie this season. The Dutchman has been denied by a post or the crossbar seven times.