Manchester United - Sunderland Preview: Sir Alex Ferguson looking to extend six-point gap with Black Cats victory
The Red Devils increased their advantage over Premier League champions Manchester City with a 3-2 derby win last Sunday, but will have to be wary of Martin O'Neill's wounded side
By Tom J Doyle
Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra
Scholes, Carrick, Cleverley
Welbeck, Van Persie, Young
Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose
Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean
Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic returns to the squad after two months out with a knee injury, although Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he is not sure whether the centre-back will start the game.
Jonny Evans, meanwhile, (hamstring) will miss out after being substituted against Manchester City last Sunday.
Nani and Anderson (both hamstring) are set to miss first-team action until the end of December, while this match may come too soon for Shinji Kagawa (knee), although the midfielder is due to return to first-team training on Monday.
Wayne Rooney (illness) could be rested by Sir Alex Ferguson with either Chicharito or Danny Welbeck taking his place in the team.
Antonio Valencia may also be given a break after making a surprise comeback for the Manchester City game after a spell on the sidelines following a hip injury.
Sunderland defender Wes Brown (knee) is out until the end of January, so will miss a return to his former club. Lee Cattermole (knee) has no set return date but will be a big miss for Martin O'Neill's men.
Danny Rose, Adam Johnson (both knocks) and Phil Bardsley (knee) were substituted in the midweek win over Reading, with the Scottish full-back expected to miss the next few weeks of action, although the left-sided pair could be fit for this game.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Manchester United have won 14 of their last 16 games at Old Trafford, losing just once.
- United are undefeated against Sunderland in their last 17 meetings in all competitions.
- Sunderland have just one win from their last 15 Premier League away games, losing seven and drawing seven.
- The Black Cats have also failed to score in 14 of those 15 away matches.
- Wayne Rooney scored his 150th Premier League goal during the 3-2 victory over Manchester City last Sunday.
- United have only scored seven goals against Sunderland in their last three meetings - three of which were own goals by Black Cats players.
- Robin van Persie (pictured, right) has seven goals in nine appearances against Sunderland in all competitions. He is 11/4 to score the first goal of the game with bet365.
- The Wearside club have conceded two fewer goals than United in the league this season, but trail them by 23 points after 16 games.
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Top 3 Predictions
Man Utd. 3-1 Sunderland
- 18.96 %
Man Utd. 3-0 Sunderland
- 18.78 %
Man Utd. 4-1 Sunderland
- 8.12 %
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Oct 5, 2013||Sunderland 1 - Man Utd. 2|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Mar 30, 2013||Sunderland 0 - Man Utd. 1|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Dec 15, 2012||Man Utd. 3 - Sunderland 1|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||May 13, 2012||Sunderland 0 - Man Utd. 1|
|England - Premier League (EPL)||Nov 5, 2011||Man Utd. 1 - Sunderland 0|
|Dec 1, 2013||Tottenham 2 - Man Utd. 2||EPL|
|Nov 27, 2013||Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0 - Man Utd. 5||UCL|
|Nov 24, 2013||Cardiff City 2 - Man Utd. 2||EPL|
|Nov 10, 2013||Man Utd. 1 - Arsenal 0||EPL|
|Nov 5, 2013||Real Sociedad 0 - Man Utd. 0||UCL|
|1||David de Gea||Goalkeeper|
|20||Robin van Persie||Striker|
|14||Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez||Striker|
|24||Carlos Javier Cuéllar||Defender|
If the Serbian centre-back is handed a starting place by Sir Alex Ferguson and comes through the match unscathed, Saturday's match could signal the start of a real trophy charge by the Red Devils. Their attacking play has been outstanding this season, but the defence has been especially brittle in the absence of their captain. Dominant in the air and confident on the floor, Vidic could add the steel to the back line which United will need if they are to maintain their title challenge and progress in Europe.
The Gabon international is a joy to watch in full flow, and could well cause United's back line serious problems if he is allowed time and space on the ball in the final third. The 28-year-old has great vision and a ferocious shot, and his man-of-the-match display against Reading proved how important he is to Martin O'Neill's side. David de Gea will have to be alert at all times on Saturday as Sessegnon has great accuracy in his long-range shooting, and his partnership with Steven Fletcher could be the difference between Sunderland staying in the division and facing a bleak future.
Although Sir Alex Ferguson could be taking a gamble at introducing Nemanja Vidic back into a defence that is shaky enough as it is, Manchester United have simply been in irresistible form of late. An astonishing 40 goals scored and 23 conceded after just 16 games shows there could well be goals at both ends, but Martin O'Neill's men have done little of either, netting 17 and letting in 21. O'Neill has a good recent record against United and his side will need to keep the game tight and hit United on the break if they are to get anything from this match. However, it it is difficult to look beyond the home side for the three points, especially after the morale-boosting 3-2 win at Manchester City last weekend.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed