04/10/2013 08:36, Report by Mark Froggatt
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Preview: Sunderland

The manager: In the absence of Di Canio, Kevin Ball will take charge of Saturday’s match. His first league game ended in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool but the 48-year-old has admitted he would like to be considered for the role on a permanent basis, though chief executive Margaret Byrne has said there’s been plenty of interest in the position: “We have had contact with some interested parties already and have others to speak to in the coming days,” she told fans. “As soon as we have identified the right person to take the club forward, we will make an announcement.” 

Star man: Former United defender John O’Shea is club captain at the Stadium of Light and his leadership skills will undoubtedly prove influential at this time of turmoil in the club’s history. “Whoever comes in, whether it's Bally or a new manager, we have some difficult times ahead,” he told the Sunderland Echo. “We have to stick together and if we keep going back to it (Di Canio), it will soon be too hard to pull back from where we are.”

Referee: Merseyside official Chris Foy last took charge of a Reds game in January, when he booked six players - including four from United - in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham at wintry White Hart Lane.

Sub-plot: As mentioned, United come into this match on the back of consecutive Premier League defeats to City and West Brom. And crucially, the Reds have not lost three top-flight matches in a row since going down to London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham in November 2001.

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