Sunderland-Manchester United Preview
LONDON (SE) - A stirring derby victory increased Manchester United's lead atop the Premier League.
Now, they're getting one of their best defenders back, while another recovers from a disgusting incident.
With Nemanja Vidic expected to return from injury Saturday at Old Trafford, the Red Devils look to continue their dominance of Sunderland, who are coming off their best performance of the season.
United (13-0-3) have created a six-point cushion on second-place Manchester City, thanks to Robin van Persie's stoppage-time winner to clinch a 3-2 victory over their local rivals Sunday.
"It's a really special way to end this game, with the three points (won) in a really dramatic way," Dutch striker van Persie said.
Despite the forward's heroics, the match was marred by a pair of embarrassing incidents for City.
One fan was arrested for making racist chants, and United defender Rio Ferdinand was struck in the face by a coin following van Persie's goal. Another fan tried to run towards Ferdinand, but fell before Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart obstructed his passage.
Ferdinand suffered a cut, but seemed light hearted on Twitter about the incident.
"Whoever threw that coin, what a shot!" Ferdinand wrote.
It would seem Ferdinand will be back in the lineup Saturday, and he'll be joined by his longtime cohort, Vidic.
The Serbian defender is coming back from knee surgery, which has kept him out since a win over Galatasaray in Champions League on Sept. 19.
His return is also timely, as Jonny Evans struggles with a hamstring injury, which forced him off early in the second half Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson preferred not to play Vidic in the Manchester derby, but said "I think the Sunderland game definitely."
Van Persie and Rooney should be back up top looking to continue their respective scoring surges.
Van Persie has one goal in each of the last three matches, and his 11 tallies are only behind the 12 scored by Wigan's Michu in the Premier League.
Rooney has scored six goals, but he's netted four in the past two games.
Both of them have found some success against the Black Cats (3-7-6) with van Persie scoring five times in seven league meetings. Rooney has three goals in 11 matchups, including the lone tally in a 1-0 win at Sunderland on May 13.
Manchester United are 14-4-0 in their last 18 meetings with Sunderland, including a 16-4 scoring advantage while going 7-2-0 at Old Trafford.
In fact, the Red Devils haven't allowed a goal by the Black Cats in five overall matches since a 2-all draw in Manchester on Oct. 3, 2009.
Sunderland, though, are feeling good after routing Reading 3-0 to win for just the second time in 12 matches in all competitions (2-3-7). The victory moved the club one point above the drop zone, and may have eased some of the pressure for manager Martin O'Neill.
"It was a great performance, very spirited," O'Neill told the team's official website. "We scored three good goals and we won the game convincingly."
Continued production from Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon would help after they had a goal apiece against Reading.
Fletcher leads Sunderland with seven goals, but has just two in 10 goals. Sessegnon's latest tally ended a three-match drought.