Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, van Aanholt, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell, Buckley, Wickham, Fletcher
Subs: Pantilimon, Jones, Bridcutt, Gomez, Altidore, Mavrias, Roberge.
Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Blackett; Valencia, Cleverley, Fletcher, Mata, Young; Rooney, van Persie
Subs: Amos, M. Keane, James, Kagawa, Hernandez, Welbeck, Januzaj
Will the Black Cats prove to be a curse for unlucky United?
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What a difference a week makes, eh? This time last weekend, Manchester United fans were heading into their opening fixture of the new season with all the hope and optimism that only a change of regime can bring. Louis van Gaal is the new name on the manager’s door at Old Trafford and the steely eyed Dutchman would have been less than impressed with his side’s display during United’s 2-1 defeat to Swansea on Saturday.
Van Gaal raised a few eyebrows amongst the United faithful with the team he selected to face the Swans. The former Holland boss prefers to operate with his trusted 3-5-2 formation that led him to a third placed finish in Brazil and gave debuts to defender Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard who started at wing-back. A loss in their first competitive fixture will have come as an even greater shock considering how quickly the Red Devils seemed to have adapted to the new system, following wins over Real Madrid and Liverpool in pre-season.
Despite an impressive record in friendlies, succumbing to Swansea at home has prompted many to question the quality of United’s squad. Having lost experience over the Summer in the departures of defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, alongside a need to inject much-needed quality into a squad that finished in seventh place last year, you couldn’t blame the supporters for feeling disillusioned with the lack of transfer activity. Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw were the only recruits going into the campaign, although centre-back Marcos Rojo has signed to bolster their defensive options.
Last season proved to be one to remember for Sunderland fans. Paolo Di Canio’s Black Cats sat at the bottom of the table after the opening five games, with a 3-0 loss to West Brom proving to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and the Italian was sent packing. Results didn’t improve immediately under new gaffer Gus Poyet, but a late rally of four wins out of their last five matches – including a 1-0 win over United at Old Trafford – sealed their Premier League status. Some of the Mackem faithful may even have sympathy with Sunday’s opponents with their dealings over the Summer. Poyet has lured Will Buckley from his former club Brighton, while the arrivals of Billy Jones and former Chelsea youngster Patrick Van Aanholt to shore up a back four that conceded a whopping 60 goals last term will hardly inspire confidence. However, the captures of Costel Pantilimon and Jack Rodwell from Manchester City could well prove to be shrewd investments.
Sunderland were victorious last time they made the trip to Manchester, and you can grab a great price of 14/1 with Ladbrokes for the Black Cats to repeat their 1-0 victory as an outside punt. Either way, United are missing a whole host of key players so a resounding win to avenge their first defeat seems unlikely. Ladrbokes have also decided to keep up their genorosity by offering a decent 13/1 for a scoreless draw. However, Wayne Rooney at 9/2 to grab the first goal – and draw level with Thierry Henry as the third highest scorer in Premier League history – also looks worthy of a tipple.
- Michael Carrick and Luke Shaw out until September
- Robin van Persie could play a part although still lacks match fitness
- Santiago Vergini ruled out of clash
- Billy Jones to miss out with a hamtring strain
FORM GUIDE (LAST FIVE GAMES)
Manchester United 0 – 1 Swansea City
Manchester United 2 – 1 Valencia
Manchester United 3 – 1 Liverpool
Manchester United 3 – 1 Real Madrid
Manchester United 0 – 0 Inter Milan
West Brom 2 – 2 Sunderland
Sunderland 2 – 0 Udinese
Sunderland 2 – 0 Real Betis
Vitoria Setubal 0 – 0 Sunderland
CD National 1 – 0 Sunderland
HEAD TO HEAD (LAST FIVE GAMES)
Manchester United 0 – 1 Sunderland
Manchester United 2 – 1 Sunderland
Sunderland 2 – 1 Manchester United
Sunderland 1 – 2 Manchester United
Sunderland 0 – 1 Manchester United
- Juan Mata netted six times in 15 games for United last season. Compared to 0 in 13 for Chelsea
- Sunderland became only the second team to avoid relegation after being bottom on Christmas Day
- Vito Mannone had the best shot-to-save ratio (77.4%) of any goalkeeper during the 2013/14 season