Sir Alex takes on old-boy Steve Bruce as United aim to maintain top spot at Old Trafford...
United’s recent fixtures have been affected by the big freeze and this will be the team’s first game for four weekends after the trip to Stamford Bridge was called off. However, the Reds are hitting form: the 1-0 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford extended the side’s unbeaten league run to 16 games this term and Sir Alex will be optimistic of retaining top spot in the Premier League by beating Sunderland, who have enjoyed a fantastic season so far under the guidance of United old boy Steve Bruce. The Wearsiders sit sixth in the league and only four points off a Champions League spot. Last time out United loanee Danny Welbeck secured a 1-0 win over Bolton at the Stadium of Light; this added to an already impressive home record and was their ninth clean sheet of the season, the most in the top flight. One of those clean sheets came in 0-0 draw with United in October.
Ins and outs
Fit-again Michael Owen could be in line for a comeback having not played since the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light. Other than that United have no new injury worries – the only absentees are Paul Scholes, John O'Shea, Antonio Valencia and Owen Hargreaves. Anton Ferdinand should return from a back injury to bolster the Black Cats but fellow defenders Titus Bramble and Michael Turner will not be fit as both are suffering with knee injuries. Welbeck, one of Sunderland’s star performers this year, will also miss the game as he ineligible to play due to the terms of his loan agreement with United.
Striker Darren Bent already has nine goals to his name so far this season and will be looking to add to that tally at Old Trafford and make it a happy Christmas for Sunderland. Bent netted in this fixture last season when he opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw.
Steve Bruce, a man familiar to all Reds, has guided Sunderland to a terrific league position as we near the half-way point of the season. Results such as the 3-0 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge stand out, but a 5-1 reverse against rivals Newcastle at St. James’ Park suggests Bruce still has some way to go before establishing