The Premier League champions travel to the Stadium of Light for their Capital One Cup semi-final first-leg tie off the back of Sunday's defeat to Swansea City at Old Trafford
David Moyes's side were dumped out in the third round of the competition after a 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea City.
Both clubs have fallen some way short of expectations in the Premier League so far this season, with Sunderland languishing at the foot of the table and United in seventh, 11 points behind leaders Arsenal.
The Black Cats have already sprung one major surprise in this season's Capital One Cup, however, knocking out Chelsea at the quarter-final stage courtesy of Ki Sung-Yueng's extra-time winner.
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Although Sunderland will have significant concerns over their own Premier League position, it is United who will surely go into Tuesday's match under the greatest pressure.
In his first season since taking over from the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes has overseen five home defeats and will be eager to head back to Old Trafford with a lead for the second leg.
The Red Devils , who ran out 2-0 winners at Stoke City in the previous round, have lifted the Capital One Cup on four occasions, with three of their triumphs coming in the last eight seasons. Sunderland's only final appearance came in 1985, when an own goal from Gordon Chisholm enabled Norwich City to claim a 1-0 victory at Wembley.
Moyes will have to cope without Fabio after the defender picked up a straight red card in the defeat to Swansea. The Brazilian's dismissal came just four minutes after he had been introduced as a replacement for Rio Ferdinand, who suffered a knee injury.
United were without strikers Robin van Persie (thigh) and Wayne Rooney (groin) against Swansea and both are set to be unavailable at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland are without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (shoulder) and defender Carlos Cuellar (thigh), while captain John O'Shea, who spent more than 10 years with United, has been troubled by a persistent shoulder problem in recent weeks.