David Moyes' men are under pressure after losing at home to West Brom and take on a Black Cats side that was 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 rival Manchester City, following that up with 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's goal made it three league defeats from six games for Moyes' men.
Captain Nemanja Vidic has urged the team to respond by going on a winning run following its lackluster 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," Vidic 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 favorites.
"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. Center back Rio Ferdinand (groin) remains an injury doubt, though.
As for Sunderland, Kevin Ball retains his place in the dugout as interim manager, with the club yet to appoint a permanent replacement for the ousted Paolo Di Canio. Ball saw his team fall to a 3-1 home defeat to Liverpool on Sunday, but he will take confidence from a much-improved performance.
History is against his charges, with Sunderland taking just eight points from a possible 72 from their Premier League encounters with Manchester United.
The Black Cats' 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.