David Moyes is in no doubt that his Manchester United team will come good this season, despite suffering three defeats in their last four Premier League matches. Although it came with the concession of a late goal, the side picked up a creditable point away to Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek to provide a welcome boost following an ignominious 2-1 reversal to West Brom at Old Trafford. Moyes continues to stress that he is the right man for the job, but that some difficulties were inevitable.
"They’re really good players,” he said. “They know themselves the standards they have set over the years and, together, we’ll work to get it right. I’ve got no doubt about that.
"Anybody who comes into a new job, you learn as you get on and as you go along. I’m doing that as well. I already knew I was coming to a place with a group of really good players but we’ll also have difficult times as well."
Wayne Rooney was ruled out of the draw in Ukraine with a shin injury picked up in training and, at his Friday press-conference, Moyes revealed that he didn’t know the status of the forward’s recovery. “I've not seen Wayne this morning so I couldn't give you an update yet,” he said. The only other injury concern for Moyes is Rio Ferdinand, who has a groin injury.
While Moyes was always going to be given time to try and get things right at Old Trafford, the same luxury wasn’t afforded former Sunderland boss Paulo di Canio, who was dismissed after just five Premier League games of the season and 13 total including the climax of the last campaign. Former assistant coach and one-time midfielder for the club Kevin Ball remains in temporary charge and he claims to be eagerly anticipating the challenge of taking on the champions.
“Manchester United is another really good game and they're coming thick and fast,” he said, according to Sunderland’s official website. “I know I can’t run around anymore but I’m not half looking forward to the game.”
“Against Liverpool (when they lost 3-1) the performance was good -- we wanted it to be even better, but we didn’t get the result so we need to improve the performance for the result to come this weekend. I want improvement and for us to keep building and eliminating any small mistakes to give us the best opportunity to win.”
Former Manchester United defender Wes Brown remains sidelined with injury, as do Steven Fletcher and Andrea Dossena.
D: Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Colback
M: Larsson, Cattermole, Ki
F: Johnson, Altidore, Giaccherini
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Cleverley
Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
F: Van Persie
Prediction: It was a decent away European performance by United in midweek. In many ways, though, it was the sort of rearguard display Moyes has had plenty of success with at Everton. His real task is to show that he is capable of successfully taking the game to opponents as United did so often in Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.
Marouane Fellaini was poor in possession against Shakhtar and he may miss out to Tom Cleverley, with Rooney likely to be restored to the side. Antonio Valencia was slightly improved from his recent poor form, while Danny Welbeck showed he could track back as well as cause problems in the opposition penalty area, which should be enough for both to keep their place.
While Di Canio’s dismissal was inevitable, problems remain. The side is brittle at the back and, with the sale of the admittedly inconsistent Stephane Sessegnon, also lacking creativity going forward. Lee Cattermole and Sung-Yueng Ki are hard-workers in midfield and should at least make it hard for United in the early going. But, unlike against West Brom, Sunderland have little to hurt a less-than-secure United defense and the visitors should have enough quality in the final third to get the goals necessary for a win.
Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick-off from the Stadium of Light at 12.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available via NBC Sports Live Extra.