Preview: Manchester United vs. Sunderland

Preview: Man United vs. Sunderland
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Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Man United and Sunderland at Old Trafford as Ryan Giggs continues his interim reign as Red Devils manager.

Manchester United fans were certainly smiling again after a performance full of pressing, positivity and pace helped them thrash Norwich City 4-0 in Ryan Giggs's first game as interim boss last Saturday.

Louis van Gaal is still the heavy favourite to replace David Moyes, sacked only 10 months into his managerial reign last week, but Giggs's promising start to life in the dugout has seen support for him to be appointed on a permanent basis grow.

Reports claimed this week that United were planning to arrange talks with the 40-year-old to discuss his future, which will likely involve a senior player/coaching role in the Van Gaal setup.

One of the darkest days of Moyes's tenure was a penalty-shootout defeat to Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, a result which came in the middle of Gus Poyet's Stadium of Light revitalisation.

The Black Cats went winless in six top-flight games after losing to Manchester City in the final of the competition, but have found the formula to success again to move out of the relegation zone.

Seven points out of a possible nine have lifted the Wearsiders from the bottom of the Premier League to 17th in the table, with five goals in three games from Connor Wickham the catalyst for this revival.

The England Under-21 international will lead the Sunderland line again at Old Trafford this weekend, with Poyet expected to name the same starting XI that hammered rivals Cardiff City 4-0 last time out.

Wes Brown and John O'Shea, who won nine domestic titles between them while playing for the Red Devils, will partner each other in central defence, but another United alumnus, Phil Bardsley, may have to be content with a place on the bench again as Poyet persists with Argentine Santiago Vergini.

Ki Sung-Yueng, Keiren Westwood and Steven Fletcher remain on the treatment table, while Carlos Cuellar is struggling to overcome a hamstring problem and will probably not be included in the squad.

With United equally convincing winners in their previous outing, Giggs is also likely to keep the faith with much of the XI that began the victory over the Canaries, although Juan Mata should be recalled.

The £37m January signing from Chelsea may have earned himself a promotion to the starting XI at the expense of either Antonio Valencia or Shinji Kagawa after scoring twice as a second-half substitute.

Robin van Persie is nearing a return but, with European qualification out of United's hands - they are six points behind sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur - may not be risked again this season to protect his World Cup chances.

Rafael is definitely out, and so Phil Jones will continue at right-back in a defence which has kept six clean sheets in its last eight home games. Sunderland could go three points clear of trouble with victory.

Recent form

United: WLWWLW

Sunderland: WWDLLL

Possible starting lineups

United: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Mata, Rooney, Valencia; Welbeck

Sunderland: Mannone; Vergini, Brown, O'Shea, Alonso; Cattermole, Colback, Larsson; Borini, Johnson, Wickham

Sports Mole says: 3-1

Jose Mourinho manager of Chelsea looks on prior to during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage on March 1, 2014
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