Sunderland-Manchester United Preview

The Associated Press

Old Trafford has been far from a happy hunting ground for Sunderland in the Premier League, but they enjoyed a triumph of sorts in their last visit there as they look to boost their survival hopes Saturday against Ryan Giggs' Manchester United.

Long odds would have been given before this season that both the champions and Sunderland would be finishing up the campaign with different managers, at least in the case of the Red Devils.

But while speculation is rampant around Carrington on the permanent successor to David Moyes, the visitors figure to be in the spotlight in their bid to end their Old Trafford hoodoo.

Sunderland have lost 10 times and drawn twice in their 12 league visits there, getting outscored 28-5. They also fell 2-1 in the League Cup second leg on Jan. 22, but that only tells part of the tale. Gus Poyet's men won a penalty shootout over Moyes' United to gain a place in the final.

Poyet's side have amassed seven points in their last three league matches to escape the drop, with the effervescent Connor Wickham scoring five goals in that span. The Black Cats are on 32 points - level with Norwich City but with a superior goal differential and a game in hand.

The strong run of form began with a 2-2 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on April 16. Wickham's second-half brace put the Black Cats on course for three points before they allowed an 88th-minute equaliser.

Three days later, Sunderland pulled out a shock 2-1 win at Chelsea, handing Jose Mourinho his first Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.

"Those results changed everything outside of our changing room," forward Fabio Borini told Sunderland's official website. "Within the changing room it didn't change a lot because we always believe, but it gave the fans confidence and belief."

The Black Cats then moved above the drop after last Saturday's 4-0 rout of new bottom side Cardiff City.

Wickham turned in his second brace in three games, continuing a dizzying spell for a striker who was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the campaign.

His return has boosted an attack that has been toothless at times, with Italian midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini and United States striker Jozy Altidore looking like high-priced flops.

The 21-year-old Wickham, in contrast, has clearly injected belief into the side and showcased his brimming confidence this week by sharing on Instagram a new tattoo on his chest and shoulders.

"It was the right time," Poyet said. "We were trying different things and we needed something different, I call it a shock, something that was needed to wake up people and Connor is doing it. Let's hope he maintains this level."

The Black Cats will get their first look at a side guided by Giggs. The long-time Red Devils stalwart made his managerial debut last Saturday in a 4-0 victory over Norwich City - a result that also boosted Sunderland's hopes.

Robin van Persie could return from a long-term knee injury for United, who also have a rescheduled match Tuesday against Hull City for Giggs to consider in his team selection.

Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata each had a brace against the Canaries for a Red Devils side no doubt with an eye on next season.

''We underperformed, we obviously have to take a lot of the responsibility but we have to move on,'' Rooney said. ''We have to show we are a top team and that's what we plan to do.''

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