Sunderland v Manchester United preview: Eight missing for visitors
By Pete Hall
Last Updated: 13/02/16 3:55pm
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal will be without eight first-team players for Saturday's trip to Sunderland.
Monday's 7-0 U21s victory over Norwich added to Van Gaal's injury woes, with Phil Jones, Adnan Januzaj and Guillermo Varela all picking up knocks.
But United will be looking to build on their recent improvement when they travel to Wearside, despite conceding a late equaliser against Chelsea last Sunday.
Van Gaal's side are six points behind bitter rivals Manchester City in their pursuit of a top-four finish, but have a chance to close that gap, if only temporarily, in the early kick-off at the Stadium of Light.
A spirited fightback at Liverpool last time out has given Sam Allardyce cause for optimism, but just one win in four means the Black Cats remain 19th, four points from safety.
Long-term United absentees Luke Shaw (leg), Marcos Rojo (shoulder), Antonio Valencia (foot), Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Ashley Young (groin) remain sidelined.
Striker Will Keane has been rewarded for his five-goal haul against the Canaries with a place in the match-day squad.
Sunderland defender Younes Kaboul and striker Duncan Watmore are both out with ankle ligament injuries. Jeremain Lens is a doubt with a suspected hernia problem.
Billy Jones is struggling to shake off a hip injury and the game is likely to come too soon for midfielder Sebastian Larsson following his return to training following a long-term knee problem. Fabio Borini is available after missing the trip to Liverpool because of a virus.
Sunderland have failed to score in eight of the last 12 Premier League matches against Manchester United and only once in each of the other four encounters.
United have won 21 and lost just two of their 29 Premier League games against Sunderland.
The Black Cats have never beaten Manchester United in the league at the Stadium of Light (D4 L9).
Wayne Rooney has been involved in as many Premier League goals in six games in 2016 (five goals, three assists), as he had in 33 games in 2015 (six goals, two assists).
Sunderland are on the longest current run without a clean sheet in the Premier League (11 games) while United have collected just six points from their last six Premier League away games (W1 D3 L2).
Only Sergio Aguero (7) has scored more Premier League goals in 2016 so far than Jermain Defoe (6) and Wayne Rooney (5).
Marouane Fellaini could make his 200th Premier League appearance in this match and would be only the second Belgian to reach this landmark in the competition after Vincent Kompany.
Manchester United have turned the corner, I've been impressed. They looked really good at Chelsea and thoroughly deserved a draw at least. Sunderland, meanwhile, will have felt they did well against Man City, despite losing, and then they got a lucky draw at Liverpool if I'm being honest. We will have to see whether the speculation surrounding Van Gaal's future affects United but they seem to have turned the corner and I expect them to win at the Stadium of Light.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-2 (Sky Bet odds 15/2)
Sunderland (4/1) are the biggest price of all home sides in Premier League action this weekend ahead of the visit of Manchester United (3/4) with the draw available at 5/2. The Black Cats remain odds-on shots with Sky Bet to be relegated with United 7/4 shots for a top four finish. United won this fixture 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier this season and are available at 7/4 to win to nil, while Sunderland are evens to win or draw in the Double Chance market. Jermain Defoe and Anthony Martial both to score is available at 17/2.