Preview: Bally's Baptism Continues

Matthew Lewis

Fresh on the back of a visit from a high flying Liverpool side, Kevin Ball's second game as interim head coach sees Sunderland welcome last year's champions, Manchester United, to the Stadium of Light this Saturday evening.

Sunderland Team News

Kevin Ball has so far stuck to what he knows in his two games in charge, keeping the participation of new players to a relative minimum. Given last week's promising performance against Liverpool there is little to suggest he will change track tomorrow, even given the defensive errors that continued to crop up.

With that in mind, it would be no surprise to see Sunderland name another unchanged side. Ondrej Celustka may alter that - it has been revealed that the Czech full-back was injured last weekend - and, if so, he would replace Craig Gardner at right-back.

Sunderland have no fresh injury worries, but Steven Fletcher, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and Andrea Dossena all remain on the sidelines.

Manchester United Team News

David Moyes has the luxury of an almost fully fit squad to choose from, with only Rio Ferdinand and Tom Cleverley doubts. The former may not play even if he is proved fit; Chris Smalling impressed again in midweek and, given the noticeable slowing of Ferdinand, it would be of little surprise to see Smalling start alongside Nemanja Vidic.

The main injury story surrounding the Red Devils regards star man Wayne Rooney, who missed Wednesday's trip to Shakhtar Donetsk with a shin injury. Moyes has announced his expectation that Rooney will be fit for tomorrow, so expect him to start behind Robin van Persie as the Reds go in search of a much-needed victory.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland vs Manchester United - Football tactics and formations

Sunderland: Westwood; Gardner, O'Shea, Cuéllar, Colback; Johnson, Cattermole, Ki, Larsson, Giaccherini; Altidore

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Fellaini, Nani; Rooney; van Persie

Key Matchup: Jozy Altidore Vs Nemanja Vidic

Given United's wealth of attacking options, Sunderland will be posed with difficult matchups all over the field. Yet, it is hard not to think that any hopes of the Black Cats gaining a positive result rest on the performance of lone striker Jozy Altidore. The American has endured a difficult start to life on Wearside, having notched just a single League Cup goal so far.

If he is to open his league account this weekend, he will find few tougher opponents whom he must beat. Adept on the floor and uncompromising in the air, Nemanja Vidic is rightly lauded as a world class defender. Altidore has showed signs of his ability so far, offering decent link-up play and an aerial presence, but tomorrow could be his biggest test yet. A good performance from him would bode well for Sunderland's chances.

Recent Form: WWLWLD

02/10/2013: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Manchester United (Taison 76; Welbeck 18)

28/09/2013: Manchester United 1-2 West Bromwich Albion (Rooney 57; Amalfitano 54, Berahino 67)

25/09/2013: Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool (Hernandez 46)

22/09/2013: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United (Aguero 16, 47, Toure 45+1, Nasri 50; Rooney 87)

17/09/2013: Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen (Rooney 22, 70, van Persie 59, Valencia 79; Rolfes 54, Toprak 88)

14/09/2013: Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace (van Persie (pen) 45+1, Rooney 81)

The Ref: Chris Foy

The 50-year-old from St. Helens has been rather frugal in his four games so far this term, dispensing just nine yellow cards and no reds. Unsurprisingly, he has yet to oversee either of Saturday's two sides yet this season, though this weekend does represent his second trip to the northeast in recent weeks, having taken charge of Newcastle United's 1-0 victory over Fulham at the end of August.

Foy refereed three Sunderland games last year including their losing trip to the side they welcome on tomorrow, as United ran out 3-1 winners at Old Trafford last Decemeber. Foy also oversaw Sunderland's 1-1 home draw with Norwich back in March, when he sent off Canaries keeper Mark Bunn and awarded the Black Cats a penalty in the process. His other game in charge of the red and whites last season came as they travelled to Arsenal on the opening day, securing a 0-0 draw at The Emirates.

Last Time Around: Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United, 30/03/2013

Just as this will likely be the last game of Kevin Ball's reign as Sunderland manager, the Red Devils' last visit to Wearside also brought about upheaval in the Stadium of Light dugout, though none could have predicted it at the time. Martin O'Neill's final game in charge of the Black Cats was unsurprising in its result - a Titus Bramble own goal securing a comfortable victory for the visitors - but its manner prompted Ellis Short to remove the man once hailed as Sunderland's saviour from his post.

With Sunderland drifting towards demotion, they put up scarcely a fight against the champions-elect. Shorn of Steven Fletcher, the home side failed to call David De Gea into meaningful action in the opposing goal. Indeed, any further goals were likely to come the way of United, with the visitors keeping Simon Mignolet busy right to the final whistle. It stretched Sunderland's winless run to eight games and saw O'Neill pay the ultimate price.

What The Managers Said

Kevin Ball

I think the thing that has pleased me most about these two games [against Peterborough and Liverpool] has been the sheer amount of effort the players have put into the games and how hard they have worked for each other. But, for me, that is the starting point rather than the be all and end all.

I have told the players that is the least they can give though, and that should be their bench mark. On top of that, they need to produce quality and discipline and focus on playing well too.

The players have worked hard during the week and we've been pleased with them.

There may be a player or two who is disappointed not to be in the starting XI or who doesn't make the squad. But it's important that they accept that they still have a job in supporting the team and doing what they can to encourage their team-mates.

We're trying to build a sense of togetherness in the squad, of everyone pulling together, and I believe we're making progress in that direction.

David Moyes

We go up there now with a new manager again, Kevin Ball, but he has been there [for a while].

He's very experienced, he knows the club and he knows the players.

He'll have watched all the games and he'll know what he has to do in this short-term period.

Whether he gets the job or not, nobody knows but Sunderland look as if they played quite well in the last couple of games.

Roker Report Predicts

There is not really a good time to play Manchester United, but tomorrow is perhaps one of the less daunting ones. David Moyes has, understandably, endured some early bumps in the unenviable task of taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson, as shown by the recent thrashing at Manchester City and last weekend's home defeat to West Bromwich Albion.

Yet, the gap in quality between Moyes' side and Sunderland's remains painfully evident. History, too, stands the Black Cats in poor stead: it is now 22 games and counting since they registered a victory over their illustrious opponents. Last weekend's performance against Liverpool was much improved and a draw would represent a fantastic result for the side currently propping up the Premier League, but it is hard not to see beyond an away victory tomorrow evening.

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