Manchester United travel to the Stadium of Light this weekend, looking to close the gap on the Premier League leaders, Chelsea. With the current leaders set to entertain Arsenal, on Sunday this fixture, although difficult on paper, gives us an ideal chance to put pressure on our two main rivals for the title by securing a win at the expense of Steve Bruce`s side, although the ex-United centre back may view matters slightly differently.
After making an appearance against Valencia, in midweek, Rio Ferdinand will be wondering whether he`ll be given the nod to start this Premier League game or whether he`ll be rested. Sir Alex Ferguson has already intimated that Rio needs introducing back into the starting eleven slowly, forcing Rio to comment to the media about his ongoing injury management scenario,
“My back was fine against Valencia, I just want to play football regularly again. I just want a run of games.”
“The manager said I probably needed a couple of games and I think that is obvious.”
“I`ve been out such a long time that to expect me to come back and play bang. Bang, bang on the bounce is perhaps unrealistic.”
“I trust the managers` judgments and his views and thoughts on me playing for the rest of the season. Whatever he deems right at the weekend I will stand by it. I think I can play. But the manager is the most experienced man on the football planet. If he deems it right for me to play at Sunderland on Saturday, I will be delighted.”
Will Rio be delighted or disappointed? I guess only Sir Alex knows the answer to that one!
Meanwhile, in the opposition camp, Darren Bent remains very confident that Sunderland can take the three points on offer, remarking,
“We will be okay because at home against the big boys we have been playing well. I can`t remember the last time we lost to a so-called big team at home.”
Pin those words up on the dressing room wall please Sir Alex!
Sunderland Team News:
The Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, splashed the cash on the African striker Asomah Gyan in the transfer window and already there are signs that he`s forging a partnership with last season`s top scorer, Darren Bent.
Not allowed to play is a certain Danny Wellbeck who, being on loan at Sunderland, isn`t allowed to play against his parent club.
Also out are Campbell, Myer, Mensah and former United player, Richardson whilst Rio`s brother, Anton, is rated as doubtful.
Player to watch: Darren Bent
The striker was unfortunate to miss out on being part of Fabio Capello`s 2010 South African World Cup squad but doesn`t seem to have let the disappointment affect his game. Bent has started the season well and is already featuring in the scoring charts, our centre backs could be in for a hard game!
Manchester United Team News:
Sir Alex, having rested Paul Scholes in midweek for the trip to Valencia, will probably include the midfielder in his starting eleven. Definitely missing though will be season long injury victim Antonio Valencia whilst Ryan Giggs could also miss out due to a calf strain.
As for Wayne Rooney, only those at Old Trafford really know whether he`s injured or whether he just needs time to get his head straight following the media shenanigans of recent weeks.
Owen Hargreaves is rumoured to be fit but is unlikely to start whilst the midweek goal hero, Javier Hernandez, will be hoping that he might get the nod to partner the in form Dimitar Berbatov up front.
Player to watch: Paul Scholes
Having been rested in midweek, for the Spanish trip, it`ll be interesting to see if the rest has worked with Scholes desperate to prove that despite his age he is capable of producing the goods week in and week out!
Match Facts & Stats
United enter this fixture as one of only two unbeaten Premier League sides, the other being Fulham.
The form, in matches between the two sides, favours united with United having won 6 of their last 7 fixtures a the Stadium of Light and Sunderland, in the last 18 attempts, can claim only 1 victory over United.
Sunderland are on an unbeaten run at home that stretches 10 with the last team to beat them on home soil being, yes you`ve guessed it, Manchester United.
The officials selected for this match are:-
Referee – Chris Foy
Assistants – Andy Garratt and Andy Madley
Fourth Official – Paul Tierney
The Stadium of Light is always a difficult place to visit. Sunderland are a far better proposition on their own pitch than away from home. After our failings, defensive wise, against Fulham and Everton on the road, perhaps we should all be a little nervous about this trip. But, for some strange reason, I`m not. I can see United withstanding an early Sunderland barrage to emerge victorious by the narrowest of margins, a solitary goal!
With an international break lined up, we have to wait until the weekend of October 16th before we resume our battle to wrestle the Premier League crown from Chelsea when United entertain West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.