Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United
SUNDERLAND BRING the curtain down on their 2011/12 campaign with a visit from Manchester United this Sunday.
The Red Devils will be going out all guns blazing as they look to pull off one of the most remarkable final day title victories in top-flight history.
Stage set, situation virtually impossible; Sunday's visitors need to overcome the Black Cats whilst hoping that QPR, fighting for their lives at the wrong end of table, overcome Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Where do Sunderland fit in you ask, Martin O'Neill's side, themselves laden with former Manchester United stars, will be looking to arrest a slump in form which has seen them fail to win in their last Premier League outings.
Any sort of Sunderland result and O'Neill's side have handed the title to the Citizens.
Whilst this is by no means a 'classic' Manchester United side that visits Wearside this weekend, it's far from weak either.
That 26-goal top-scorer Wayne Rooney is 'short of form' and the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez are struggling to get into the side shows the depth on offer to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, still.
One man who has benefited hugely from Sir Alex's impressive youth policy, is Danny Welbeck. The nippy Mancunian forward of course impressed hugely on loan at the Stadium of Light last season and has slotted in seamlessly back at his parent club this year.
Employed through the middle by United, the 21 year-old has bagged 12 league and cup goals in 41 appearances this season. Welbeck's club form has earned him international recognition to boot, prompting talk that he could well be on his way to this summers European Championships.
Another man showered with similar praise is Paul Scholes. At the opposite end of the age-scale, the 37 year-old midfielder has been integral since his January return.
After a six-month spell coaching United's reserves, Scholes pulled his boots on once more when United faced City in the FA Cup 3rd Round, and hasn't looked back since.
Twenty league and cup appearances later and the little genius has overseen just two defeats back in the familiar red jersey.
At the back, the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have been missed sorely for elongated periods of time, however the renaissance in form for 'keeper David De Gea has removed some of that pressure.
The immensely talented Spanish stopper endured a rough first few months at Old Trafford, but, by and large, Ferguson stuck with his £18m summer signing.
Now established as the club's number one between the sticks, De Gea has pulled off some truly breathtaking stops during his debut season in England. Whether it be at the Olympics or the EURO's, De Gea will be representing Spain somewhere this summer without doubt.
Ferguson will be without midfielder workhorse Darren Fletcher (illness), Chris Smalling (groin), Vidic (ACL), Michael Own (thigh) and Anderson (hamstring).
Welbeck, Ferdinand and Johnny Evans are all doubts.
O'Neill could be ready to welcome Wes Brown back into the fold whilst Connor Wickham, Seb Larsson and Kieran Richardson are all sidelined.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, O'Shea, Kilgallon; Gardner, Cattermole (c), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Ji.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Jones, Evra (c); Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Young; Hernandez & Rooney.
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