Manchester United’s revival under Ryan Giggs continues this weekend with another emphatic victory only likely to intensify calls for him to be named the next permanent manager.
Following a week where United’s reserve goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard compared the Welshman to Pep Guardiola, every passing win will make the bookies’ current favourite for the job, Louis Van Gaal, more anxious that the powers-that-be could anoint Giggs – particularly if the clamour from the fans becomes too hard to ignore.
Fortunately for Van Gaal, Sunderland will arrive full of confidence after picking up seven points from their last three games, including a draw at Manchester City and a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Although Sunderland’s record against United in the league leaves a lot to be desired, they will know that their form against top half teams this year is what may eventually save them from relegation. And they have already knocked United off their perch once this season, with a penalty shoot-out win at Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
Up to three former United players – Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Phil Bardsley – could feature, with any points gained likely to go a long way towards ensuring survival.
But they will face a rejuvenated United side who are aiming to finish a forgettable season on a high, and are playing with renewed swagger now that the heavy weight of the failed David Moyes era has been lifted from Old Trafford.
KICK-OFF: Saturday, 3pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Manchester United 2 (Evans, Hernandez) Sunderland 1 (Bardsley) (AET – Sunderland win on penalties), Capital One Cup, January 2014
Sunderland 2 (Giggs og, Borini pen) Manchester United 1 (Vidic), Capital One Cup, January 2014
Sunderland 1 (Gardner) Manchester United 2 (Januzaj 2), Premier League, October 2013
The last time United tasted defeat against a Sunderland side in the Premier League was in the 1996/97 season. Since then United have gone 23 league games without a loss to the Black Cats.
Sunderland have won 21 of their 32 points this season against current top-half sides.
Saturday’s game will feature two of this season’s most ill-disciplined teams. Between them, Manchester United and Sunderland have amassed 127 yellow cards and 10 reds.
Manchester United have scored four goals in each of their last three league wins. Sunderland put four past Cardiff last weekend.
Connor Wickham has scored five goals in three appearances after scoring just once in his previous 37.
Sunderland have scored the highest percentage of their goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season.
Manchester United to win: 1.33
Sunderland to win: 9.0
Earlier this season, a young, precocious, left-footed winger by the name of Adnan Januzaj announced himself as a future star with a brace in United’s 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light. How fitting would it be if he did so again, with the last famous left winger to come through the ranks at United as his new manager?
TV: Highlights on BBC1 at 10.20pm