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Fan Focus: Manchester United (H) - A Household Split In Two!

The second game of the season throws up an intriguing clash between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light this weekend. So, I caught up with digital marketing whizz, keen blogger and lifelong United fan Stacey MacNaught to get her thoughts on the Red Devils' current position, while also looking ahead towards Sunday's match. Just to add even more spice to the fixture for Stacey, she's married to a Sunderland supporter!

Shaun Botterill

After so many years of success, did you ever think you'd witness a season like the last one under David Moyes and do you feel his reign was doomed from the beginning?

Stacey: I always knew there’d be a difficult period after Sir Alex retired. Whoever took the reigns, he would have been inheriting a squad that just wasn’t good enough. I’ve got to be honest, though, I didn’t expect a collapse of the scale we endured last season.

So, Louis van Gaal is the new man at the helm. Do you believe that he'll restore the club to former glories?

Stacey: I like him. I was a bit confused last weekend, mind. In his pre-match interviews he talked about all the emphasis and time that’s gone into technical and tactical training for the new formation – then he abandoned it at half-time and reverted to four at the back. Bit confusing and I’m sure there’s not a club in the league who’d want to see Ashley Young playing at left-back.

If he sticks around a few years, I think he’s a manager who can build something promising for us.

Rooney as captain - good choice?

Stacey: The jury’s out for me on this one. I know van Gaal suggested he wanted someone ‘steady’, but let’s not forget this is a lad that’s handed in a transfer request twice. Can we ever consider him steady? That said, he’s a brilliant leader on the pitch and you always want a captain who gives it 100%. He does that. I’ll reserve judgement on that call for a few weeks.

How do you rate the club's transfer business so far and do you require more additions?

Stacey: I’m over the moon with Herrera and I’m pretty pleased about Luke Shaw. We've just confirmed the signing of Marcos Rojo too, which should help to alleviate our defensive woes to some degree, though I still think we need an absolutely world-class defender. We could do with a top-level attacking midfielder as well, though it’s going to be harder to attract those players without European football.

We've had the pleasure of both Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans featuring on loan for Sunderland in the past, but neither seems to be pulling up any trees at the moment. How do you rate the pair and is there a chance we could see them playing from the start on Sunday?

Stacey: Welbeck is a really frustrating player for me. He was brilliant out on loan but just never sets the world alight these days. It’s infuriating because, for some reason, I believe he’s got something.

Jonny Evans is generally reliable and he’s experienced our winning mentality and been a part of some of our most successful seasons. I think, particularly if we fail to sign another defender this month, we’re going to be incredibly reliant on him.

I don’t think we’ll see Welbeck starting at the weekend, but Evans is a contender, for sure.

Now, our usual central defensive partnership comprises of experienced duo John O'Shea and Wes Brown, both of whom made the switch from Old Trafford in 2011. How do you think they'll cope with your forward line?

Stacey: I think Rooney and Hernandez, assuming they start up-front, will be a handful for Wes Brown and John O’Shea, but only if they’re getting the service they need from midfield.

I would be absolutely buzzing to see Robin van Persie make an appearance, even if only a short stint!

What are your realistic expectations for the upcoming campaign?

Stacey: I’ll be happy if we finish in the top-four, and without European football to contend with (sulk!), I think that’s realistic. God, I hope that’s realistic!

With Sunday's clash in mind, who do you envisage causing most problems for Sunderland?

Stacey: Juan Mata. I’m hoping to see him in the line-up and I think he’s going to come really good this season!

Are there any Sunderland players in particular that worry you going into the game?

Stacey: Seb Larsson. He scored against West Brom at the weekend and he also scored the goal that saw Sunderland beat us at Old Trafford (coincidentally on the day I married a Sunderland fan!) last May. He’s a great player.

What's it like in your household when Sunderland and Manchester United meet?!

Stacey: Typically, it ends in my husband sulking. But that wasn’t the case last season! The last time the two teams met was on our wedding day and that ended better for him than for me.

It’s always a tense fixture in our household. There’s marital pride at stake, not just points! With us both living in Manchester, we usually spend the Old Trafford fixtures at the opposite ends of the stadium and catch up afterwards. I reckon I’m a bit more gracious in defeat than he is.

And finally, can we have a score prediction? Goalscorers?

Stacey: Do you know what, I’m going to put my optimistic hat on. United for the win 2-1 - Juan Mata and Rooney scoring for us and Larsson for Sunderland. Stick a fiver on that!

Be sure to follow Stacey on Twitter @staceycav

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