Did you know? There is a strong Reds presence within the Sunderland squad with no less than five former players – Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley, John O’Shea, Fraizer Campbell and Louis Saha – all playing at the Stadium of Light. Danny Welbeck also has a strong affinity with the Black Cats, having enjoyed a successful loan spell on Wearside during the 2010/11 season.
Opposition boss: Martin O’Neill took over from Steve Bruce in December 2011 and, despite a promising start, has been under pressure of late following a run of disappointing results. However, the 60-year-old former Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa boss appears to have the full backing of his board and recently backed himself in the position, by telling reporters: “I don't want to be boastful, but not only am I the best man for the job, I am actually the only man for the job.”
Star man: Since signing from Wolves for an estimated £14million in the summer, Steven Fletcher has scored seven of Sunderland’s 16 league goals and has cemented his position as the Black Cats’ primary attacking weapon. Although some baulked at such a fee, the Scotland international has made great strides to justify the valuation and is showing no signs of wilting under any pressure, producing several impressive performances despite playing in an under-performing side.
Sub-plots: John O’Shea is set to return to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving the Reds for Sunderland in the summer of 2011, having missed last season’s corresponding fixture through injury. The Republic of Ireland international scored 15 goals in just under 400 appearances for United and is guaranteed a rousing reception from fans inside the Theatre of Dreams.