Sunderland vs Manchester United
Barclays Premier League – Saturday 5th October, 2013 (17:30 KO BST) – Stadium of Light, Sunderland (49,000)
Caretaker manager Kevin Ball on facing this current United side: “When things change, it takes time to build some sort of momentum, and I have no doubt in time, that will happen there. I just look at it as Manchester United. I know what quality of players they have got and know it’s going to be a very difficult game.”
Ex-United defender Wes Brown will be missing with a calf injury.
Phil Bardsley (foot) and Andrea Dossena (thigh) also miss out.
Up top, Steven Fletcher will once again be absent with a shoulder injury.
United legend John O’Shea will start at centre-back for The Black Cats, captaining the side.
Sunderland currently lie on the bottom of the table with a solitary point from their opening six fixtures.
They have lost all three home games this season.
Adam Johnson, Jack Colback and goalkeeper Keiren Westwood have played in all six matches so far.
Emanuele Giaccherini top scores with two goals.
Predicted line-up: Westwood, Gardner, O’Shea, Cuellar, Colback, Sung-Yueng, Cattermole, Larsson, Johnson, Giaccherini, Altidore
Home record: P3 W0 D0 L3 F2 A7 Pts0
Home form: L L L
Reds Captain Nemanja Vidic ahead of the game: “I think we have to perform well at Sunderland, like we did against Shakhtar, in terms of our defending. With the quality we have up front, we are always able to score goals. I think there’s no question about that.”
After missing the midweek draw in Donetsk with a shin injury, Wayne Rooney could return to the side.
David Moyes was cagey about the forward’s potential involvement. “I’ve not seen Wayne this morning so I couldn’t give you an update yet,” he said in Friday’s press conference.
Rio Ferdinand, who also missed the game in Ukraine, remains a doubt with a groin injury.
After starting against Shakhtar on his return from injury, Robin van Persie will likely lead the line at the Stadium of Light.
Otherwise, David Moyes has a fully-fit squad to choose from.
After a much-improved defensive performance in the week, the manager may decide to keep the back five in place.
Impressive in Ukraine, Tom Cleverley will hope to keep his place in the side.
Should Wayne Rooney return, Marouane Fellaini could drop to the bench after another below-par display.
Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand and David de Gea have played in every minute of league action so far this season.
Predicted line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia, Welbeck, Rooney, van Persie
Away record: P3 W1 D0 L2 F5 A6 Pts3
Away form: W L W
Record at the Stadium of Light: P12 W8 D3 L1 F20 A8
Recent meetings at the Stadium of Light
Sunderland 0-1 United (30-03-13)
Sunderland 0-1 United (13-05-12)
Sunderland 0-0 United (02-10-10)
Sunderland 0-1 United (02-05-10)
Sunderland 1-2 United(11-04-09)
Referee: Chris Foy.
The 50-year-old official has taken charge of only two Premier League matches this season, showing 5 yellow cards and awarding 1 penalty. Was last seen by United fans during January’s 1-1 draw away to Tottenham. Officiated last season’s 3-1 home win over Sunderland.
Assistants: A Garratt, S Burt.
Fourth official: Phil Dowd.
The last team to win the top-flight title after having lost three of their first six games was Portsmouth in 1949-50.
Against West Brom, Wayne Rooney scored from a free-kick for the third Premier League game in a row. The last player to score more in a single season was Cristiano Ronaldo (four in 2008-09).
Sunderland remain one of only three teams that have yet to keep a Premier League clean sheet this season (alongside Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Fulham).
United have never lost a Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. In fact, the Reds have only ever conceded 6 goals at the ground (in 11 games).
John O’Shea holds the record (with Paul Scholes) for the most United appearances vs Sunderland at the Stadium of Light (7). He will captain The Black Cats on Saturday.
Kevin Ball was in caretaker charge when Sunderland earned a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in the 2005-06 season.
United are unbeaten against Sunderland in the last 19 matches, all in the Premier League.
Score prediction: Sunderland 1-2 United
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