Old Trafford, Manchester
26th September, 2015; 15:00 BST
This Manchester United side have some frailties and allied with the injuries in defence it is a wonder that they could be top of the Premier League at 17:00 BST on Saturday. Louis Van Gaala s team enjoyed a decent workout against a second string Ipswich side in the Carling Cup in midweek and are strong favourites entering this match.
Their opponents Sunderland are bottom of the league having lost four and drawn two of their opening six matches. After two years of just about managing to beat the drop, this could be the season when the Black Cats are demoted to the Championship. But if they want confidence ahead of a potentially daunting trip to Old Trafford they need to look back to May of 2014 when they won at The Theatre of Dreams thanks to a Sebastian Larsson strike.
Team News & Tactics
The most encouraging aspect from the midweek win for Van Gaal would have been the goal that Wayne Rooney scored. Martin Keown recently observed that the England captaina s form this season reminds him of the way Robin Van Persie played during his final year at Old Trafford. Rooney still looks far from his best but he could not have wished for better opponents than Sunderland who have conceded 13 goals in the league this season.
. Michael Carrick & Morgan Schneiderlin would expect to start against the Black Cats at the base of Uniteda s midfield. Upfront the choice is even more straightforward thanks to the excellent start made by Anthony Martial to his Old Trafford career and the goal threat offered by Juan Mata and Memphis Depay.
Defensively the Red Devils are wobbling a little bit following a long term injury to Luke Shaw and a hamstring strain for Marcos Rojo. The options that he has are threefold a using Ashley Young as a full back but the England man does have some defensive limitations, switching Matteo Darmian to the left and using Antonio Valencia on the right or using Daley Blind as left back with Phil Jones taking his place in the centre of defence. Van Gaal is likely to go with the initial approach of using Young and will hope that he faces no other injuries at the back.
Probable Starting Eleven (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Young; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Mata, Rooney, Depay; Martial
The omens do not look good for Sunderland coming into this match. They have collected 2 points from their opening six matches and it would be a major surprise if they get anything from this game. Historically as well they have struggled at Old Trafford with only one win in Premier League era in 2013-14. Prior to 2014 one would have to go back 46 years when the Black Cats overcame Matt Busbya s Manchester United side.
But the one thing in Sunderlanda s favour is an almost fully fit squad and the presence of a few players who will not be intimated playing in The Theatre of Dreams. Jermaine Defoe is not the player he one was with Tottenham but he will relish the chance to prove that he can still cut it at the top level. Younes Kaboul, another former Spurs man will return from suspension & manager Dick Advocaat will hope that he can lift his team mates and prepare them for the onslaught they might be subject to on Saturday.
Probable Starting Eleven (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Jones, Coates, Kaboul, Van Aanholt; Ma Vila, Gomez; Lens, Toivonen, Borini; Defoe
Player to Watch Out For: Memphis Depay
With the spotlight firmly fixed on Martial this is the chance for Depay to show why he is so highly rated in Dutch football. Many consider him the natural successor to Arjen Robben and while he has shown glimpses of his abundant natural talent he still has a lot to prove to the United faithful.
Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland
Manchester United should have too much firepower for Sunderland but a suspect defence could offer the Black Cats a chance to grab some consolation.