United out to maintain lead atop the table
Manchester, England (Sports Network) - Coming off of a massive result in the Manchester derbylast weekend, Premier League-leading Manchester United will look to maintain its lead atop the table when it welcomes Sunderland to Old Trafford on Saturday.
The Red Devils earned a last-gasp win over Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday to go six points clear at the top of England's top flight, a lead that Sir Alex Ferguson's side will hope to keep in tact, or even build upon, after the Citizens head to Sports Direct Arena to face Newcastle earlier on Saturday.
Manchester United has been the toast of the league so far this term, winning 13 of its 16 matches (four more than City) and scoring a league-high 40 goals (10 more than City).
United's offense has needed to be on point to cover for its defensive frailties in league play as the Red Devils have leaked 23 goals, often making a habit of conceding goals in the early stages of games.
But the 19-time English champions will be hopeful of locking it down at the back with central defender and club captain Nemanja Vidic returning to the fold. It is unclear how big of a role the Serbia international will play after returning from injury, but his inclusion in the squad will be a massive boost for the team.
"Nemanja is back in the squad but Jonny Evans is out obviously after his injury last week," Sir Alex said at his pre-match press conference on Friday. "Jonny got the injury midway through the first half [against City] and he struggled on to halftime, but I always think with muscle injuries that if you start the second half with it it's a problem.
"Having 'Vida' back in the squad is a big, big one for us. His experience, his ability to head the ball, his offensive qualities are well renowned now and he's our captain. Whether I start him or not, that's another issue. But it's great to have him back."
Sunderland should provide a solid test for United after looking impressive in the club's 3-0 defeat of Reading at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.
Martin O'Neill's side has struggled in the early months of the season, sitting just one point clear of the relegation zone. But if Tuesday's performance was any indication, Sunderland should bring an energetic and unified display to Old Trafford.
Liverpool, another fierce United rival, will be in action on Saturday as well, taking on Aston Villa at Anfield. The Reds will be attempting to secure a third straight league win while the Villans will try to extend their unbeaten run in league play to five games.
Also on Saturday, Norwich City welcomes Wigan to Carrow Road, QPR hosts Fulham at Loftus Road and Everton heads to the Britannia to take on Stoke City.
On Sunday, Tottenham and Swansea City will be hoping to bounce back from losses when the two sides meet at White Hart Lane and West Bromwich will try to avoid a fourth straight league defeat when it welcomes West Ham to the Hawthorns.
And in Monday's lone Premier League fixture, Reading will look to put an end to its five-game losing streak when it faces seventh-place Arsenal at the Madejski.