Manchester United-Sunderland Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

The most successful team in English football is under pressure just one game into the new Premier League season.

Manchester United's dramatic fall from grace under David Moyes last season was expected to be proven to be just a blip after the arrival of big-name boss Louis van Gaal over the summer, but the veteran Dutch manager saw his new team beaten 2-1 at home by Swansea in the opening game of the new campaign.

Sunday's game at the Stadium of Light versus Sunderland offers Van Gaal a second chance to get his first points in the English top-flight, but he'll be without Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Luke Shaw through injury. He additionally revealed Ander Herrera, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck all face late fitness tests.

New signing Marcos Rojo will not be available to make his debut as he waits for confirmation of a work permit, but the versatile Argentinean defender is expected to be a big hit at United.

"I'm very happy to be here at the biggest club in the world," said Rojo, after completing a protracted transfer from Sporting Lisbon. "It's a great honour and I'll do the best I can for the club.

"For me, this is certainly the biggest league in the world. I always watched it when I was younger, and an important aspect is that there are many young players who come here to the Premier League to improve their game, and I hope I can now do the same.

Sunderland picked up their first league win over Man United in 17 years when they beat the Red Devils 1-0 at Old Trafford last May, and Gus Poyet revealed in his pre-match press conference he is looking forward to going for back-to-back wins in a head-to-head with United's new high-profile manager.

"Van Gaal has been on every stage, the Champions League, the World Cup, everywhere," said Poyet. "It's a good challenge for me to see if I can be ahead of his game which will be difficult. He is a strong character and knows what he wants.

"He's a leader in his own way and will try hard to make sure his team wins games in his system."

Prior to their win at Old Trafford last season, Sunderland had gone 23 league games without beating United, stretching back to 1997. During that run they were outscored 44-12 and failed to find the net on 13 occasions.

Sunderland lost 2-1 in this fixture last season - with Adnan Januzaj scoring both goals for United - but also knocked the Red Devils out of the League Cup on penalties in the semifinals.

The Black Cats equalised late to secure a 2-2 draw with West Brom on the opening weekend, but summer signing Jack Rodwell failed to impress and was substituted in the second half. The England midfielder will take time to adjust to regular football after years of bench-warming at Manchester City, but he is expected to start against United.

Emanuele Giaccherini, however, will be missing from the Sunderland midfield as he continues to recover from a groin injury.

Away form was not United's problem last season. They have lost just one of their last seven away league games, and their tally of 34 points on the road last season was just one less than co-leaders Liverpool and Arsenal.

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