It's Fan Focus time here on Roker Report once again. I'm still not sure how we managed to naturally shift to Friday's instead of Thursday's as was the case, but it seems we're here to stay.
For uninitiated, this is where we talk to someone who covers the opposition, be it a journalist or blog, and ask them how things are going. It's pretty simple when you think about it.
This week I'm delighted we've managed to speak to Scott from The Republik Of Mancunia, the multiple award winning Manchester United blog. You can see Scott's fine work for ROM over on their site - www.therepublikofmancunia.com or follow them on Twitter for the latest news and opinion out of Old Trafford - @R_o_M
Without any further ado, I'll pass you over to Scott for a very interesting catch-up covering United's start to the season, that derby defeat and the progress of Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans. Not to mention thoughts on Saturday's game...
So this might be seen as a stupid question considering how much of a spotlight is on United at all times, but how's the season going, from a fans perspective?
Scott: The season started off brilliantly. We had such a difficult run of fixtures, having to play Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea in the opening few weeks, and I was fully expecting us to drop some points there. Our performances have dropped off over the past few weeks though, which happened to coincide with Tom Cleverley's injury, with our midfield really not pulling its weight. Obviously the City result was an absolute disaster and on 90 minutes we had restored a respectable scoreline at 3-1 with ten men. It was complete idiocy to keep attacking from then on. Anyway, that aside, we've made a good start to the season, much better than last season and hopefully we'll see some of the form we enjoyed at the very beginning with Cleverley back in the side.
Two former loanee's could be in the team this weekend against us in Danny Welbeck & Jonny Evans. It's been a rapid rise for Welbeck, have you noticed a change in him since his return to Old Trafford?
Scott: Welbeck is a much better player. When the loan deal with Sunderland was agreed, I imagined it would probably become a permanent deal at the end of the season. To see him come back in to the team and score so freely is brilliant. He was so gangly and uncoordinated before and his first touch wasn't good enough. He still has improving to do but you can't really argue with his scoring record this season. I'm delighted for him and really hope he makes it at United.
...And I've often heard people bemoaning Evans. Which to us at Sunderland is a little odd considering he looked such a classy player. Is the criticism of him justified, and what's going on with him?
Scott: Evans was awful last season, which is something he more or less acknowledged himself a couple of weeks ago. He was at fault for a lot of goals. He was being outmuscled and outjumped by strikers that weren't even any good. This season he's been a lot better and looks more like the Evans who had impressed us so much. The derby was a disaster for him though, even before the sending off, and obviously making costly mistakes in games like that stay with the fans for a while.
Despite them we've still got a healthy number of ex-MUFC in our ranks, with John O'Shea & Wes Brown the latest additions. Were you at all surprised to see them go as they still look like they can do a job?
Scott: I wasn't surprised that Wes left. He had a big falling out with the manager the summer before and was barely given any time on the pitch last season. I was surprised about John O'Shea though, particularly because I didn't think we had adequate cover for the positions he played in. I've been shown to be totally wrong on that though, with Smalling and Jones both proving they are good enough to play right-back for England, as well as them playing in the centre of our defence, and Jones having a go in midfield at Anfield. Without being disrespectful to O'Shea, who I like a lot and who I was very disappointed to see leave, he is inferior to Smalling and Jones and yet again I have to concede that the manager knows best.
There was a fair bit of money chucked around over the summer with De Gea, Young, Jones etc. De Gea seems to have ridden out his early season criticism, but what do you make of him? Is he the long-term solution between the sticks?
Scott: Yes. He is young but he isn't inexperienced. He had been the number 1 at one of the best teams in Spain for a couple of seasons and won the Europa League as their first choice keeper when he was just a teenager. Our league is different to Spain, of course, but he's a great keeper and he is adjusting all the time.
What have you made of Sunderland this season, and what with all the ex-MUFC that have come through the doors at the Stadium Of Light, is there a soft spot for us, or do you look at us in the same way we do Stoke City, a dumping ground?
Scott: I definitely have a soft spot for Sunderland. Roy Keane was my hero and Steve Bruce was our captain at the start of the best time in our history, so I would always keep an eye out for the teams they managed. The fact their time in charge of Sunderland has been coupled with the presence of so many former United players, particularly fans' favourites and those that have come through our academy, it's obviously going to create some feelings from our fans for your club. (I go in to more detail about all that here: http://therepublikofmancunia.com/time-to-get-a-second-team). They haven't made a great start to the season, particularly in light with the money that has been spent, but I hope Bruce comes good.
Is there anyone from our side you think could be a thorn in the United side?
Scott: The amount of times I've ripped the piss out of Nicklas Bendtner for calling himself the best in the world, I'm sure he's due a good game against us. Our former players might like to show the manager what he's missing too.
Well I'll put it politely, things didn't go to well in your last home game, but you bounced back with three points at Everton. What sort of performance and game are you anticipating this weekend?
Scott: Vidic is back in the team, which makes a world of difference to how we perform, so I'm hoping we'll start to look stronger with every further game he gets under his belt. I expect us to control the game but I would like our forwards to be more effective in front of goal.
And lastly mate, what's your score prediction...
Scott: 2-0 United.