Man Utd v Sunderland preview

Steve Bruce will return to Old Trafford once more when he takes his Sunderland side to former club Manchester United on Saturday.

Bruce was a popular figure among United fans during his nine-year spell as player and captain at the Theatre of Dreams and the fact that the former defender is yet to beat the Red Devils as a manager in 12 attempts should mean he is given an even warmer welcome than usual.

However Bruce's current Black Cats squad arguably give him the best chance to put one over his former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sunderland have started the season well and currently reside in eighth place but Bruce is aware his side will have to drastically improve their defending from their 5-2 win over Wolves last time out if they are to have any hope of upsetting the odds on Saturday.

The Wearsiders looked all at sea against a spirited Wolves side with a number of their backline still adapting to life in England.

But in Darren Bent, Kenwyne Jones and former United youngster Fraizer Campbell, Sunderland possess a strike-force that can unsettle the best defences.

In truth the champions have looked shaky at the back themselves in recent weeks with the form of goalkeeper Ben Foster and Rio Ferdinand called into question, in particular, and Bruce will be hoping Bent can upset the England internationals and continue his hot streak in front of goal.

United have begun to look more like reigning champions with each passing game and last weekend's 2-0 win at Stoke saw them climb to the top of the table for the first time this season.

Despite their unease at the back, United have still managed to carve out wins by outscoring the opposition with Ryan Giggs in particularly sparkling form.

The veteran played alongside Bruce at United for five-and-a-half years and the Welshman continues to belie his age with a string of match-winning displays of late.

The 35-year-old scored his 150th goal for the club in the 2-1 win over Wolfsburg but, if selected, he will have to be at his brilliant best at the weekend if United are to overcome what have, in the past, been somewhat stubborn opposition.

Despite winning two out of their last three home games against Sunderland, and drawing the other, United have needed late goals in both victories to take all three points with Nemanja Vidic on target in stoppage time last term.

United will be without Michael Owen with a groin injury. The striker was forced off against Wolfsburg in midweek and will be out for up to three weeks.

Edwin van der Sar (hand) is back in training but despite Tomasz Kuzsczak starting in midweek Ben Foster will come back in against the Black Cats.

Park Ji-sung missed the UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday due to a virus and it remains to be seen whether he has recovered sufficiently enough to feature at the weekend.

Defender Rafael is also back in training following shoulder surgery, but he is not likely to be considered.

Owen Hargreaves is expected to be fit by November as he steps up his recovery from surgery on both knees while summer signing Gabriel Obertan is still out with a back injury.

Sunderland have just two injury worries in Lee Cattermole and John Mensah.

The midfielder was withdrawn at half-time against Wolves last week with an ankle injury but is expected to pull through to face United while Mensah is touch and go after going down with a thigh injury this week.

Possible starting XIs:

Man Utd: Foster, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney.

Sunderland: Gordon, Da Silva, Turner, Ferdinand, Richardson, Malbranque, Cana, Cattermole, Reid, Bent, Jones.

Source: Sky Sports
Date Published: 3 October 2009