Sunderland entertain Manchester United on Sunday afternoon in what will be the latest indicator to Louis Van Gaal as to how much work still needs to be done to this broken United squad.
Sunderland go into the game as the form side out of the two clubs, and there is a real feel that they will go on to inflict yet more misery on the beleaguered Red Devils.
Whilst United were outplayed and well beaten at home to Swansea on the opening game of the season, Sunderland can count themselves unlucky to come away with only a point from their entertaining game against West Bromwich Albion.
With no injury concerns at, Gus Poyet is expected to stick with the same starting eleven that began the game against the Baggies. Vito Mannone will start in goal behind a back four of Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Valentin Roberge and Patrick Van Aanholt. In midfield, Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell will do the running and covering, allowing Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson to focus on supplying opportunities to Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher up-front. Jozy Altidore is expected to sit on the bench again.
Having got the best part of 70 minutes worth of action under his belt last week, Rodwell will be expected to stamp his authority in midfield and win his battle against what is an incredibly soft and mediocre United midfield. United were once heavily linked with a move for Rodwell, and you can’t help but feel that he would be an improvement on what they currently have in the middle of the park.
Van Gaal himself admitted after the Swansea debacle that he desperately needed to bring in reinforcements before the transfer window closes. He has brought in the first of these reinforcements in the shape of Argentinian World Cup defender Marcos Rojo.
Rojo is a fine player and had an impressive World Cup. He is, however, far from being the sort of player that United fans can get excited about. That said, he is versatile and can be deployed as either a left sided centre-back, or a left fullback. Unfortunately, United has been unable to get international clearance in time for Rojo to play today.
With Antonio Valencia, Jonny Evans and Robin van Persie all training this week, United could field a much changed line-up.
What I would expect to happen is for Van Gaal to stick with the 3-4-1-2 (or 3-5-2) formation that served him so well with the Dutch side in Brazil, and also for United in pre-season friendlies, which all of sudden seems to feel as though they were played an eternity ago.
If Evans is fit, he will slot in alongside Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett at the back. Phil Jones would then play at right wing-back with Ashley Young on the other side. Darren Fletcher and Ander Herrera will be retained in midfield, with Juan Mata playing just behind Wayne Rooney and the returning Robin van Persie.
If United are able to field this team, then they should have enough to get a much needed win. However, all is not well at the Old Trafford club, and not many would be surprised if they were to lose again.