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Premier League

Alex Ferguson relishing return of Wes Brown and John O'Shea


Sir Alex Ferguson is looking forward to welcoming two members of his old guard back to Manchester United tomorrow.

John O'Shea and Wes Brown spent 13 and 15 seasons respectively at Old Trafford, amassing a combined total of 754 appearances.

Both men started Champions League finals for United in recent times and the pair left for Sunderland in the summer with five league title medals in their pockets.

Unfortunately for O'Shea, injury ensures he will be nothing more than a spectator, leaving Brown to provide fitting opposition on the weekend Ferguson will celebrate 25 years as United manager.

"They were instrumental in a lot of our successes over the years," said Ferguson.

"They are fantastic professionals. I love both of them in terms of their attitude and loyalty to the club."

Yet that is not the only United connection within Black Cats ranks.

Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley both came through the Red Devils' academy whilst Ferguson will be faced in the opposing dug-out by one of his stalwarts, Steve Bruce, who completed a trio of Sunderland managers with United connections when he followed Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia as boss in the summer of 2009.

"Our association with Sunderland over the years has been interesting," said Ferguson.

"Steve has been under a bit of pressure but you only need to lose two games in this game today and you are under pressure.

"He has the mettle for it. He has had to cope with one or two injuries but he will get through that. He will be OK."

There is also a Sunderland old boy in the United squad as Jonny Evans had two loan spells with the Black Cats before eventually becoming a regular presence at his parent club.

Having stabilised their Premier League campaign with a narrow win at Everton last weekend, Ferguson will be looking for his team to kick on tomorrow.

Whether that involves Wayne Rooney filling the deep-lying central midfield role he occupied to such great effect against Otelul Galati in midweek remains to be seen.

For, as well as Rooney did, Ferguson is mindful where the Merseysider's best position is.

"He has the appetite for it," said the Scot.

"He has the energy levels and I thought he did that really well.

"But I am not putting any marker down for that position.

"When you have a player who has scored 12 goals so far, you want him to be in positions where he can get you more goals. That is where he normally plays."