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Sunderland could be without key players at Old Trafford

SUNDERLAND are sweating over three key players ahead of their trip to Old Trafford on Saturday, writes NEIL CAMERON.

Sunderland's Phil Bardsley

SUNDERLAND are sweating over three key players ahead of their trip to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Phil Bardsley is almost certainly out of the Premier League match against Manchester United after limping off – half an hour after coming on as a substitute – during Tuesday night’s win over Reading with suspected knee ligament damage.

Winger Adam Johnson came off at half-time at the Stadium of Light and is also a major doubt after taking a knock on the ankle, while the in-form Danny Rose was another who didn’t last the 90 minutes.

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill gave his players a day off yesterday following the vital 3-0 win over Reading, a result that lifted them out of the Premier League relegation zone.

His aim then would be to continue the good form on the back of such a morale-boosting result – difficult enough at the home of the current league leaders, but even more of a challenge when going to Manchester far from full strength.

Scotland international Bardsley – although born in Salford and a former Red Devils player – has struggled with injuries since pre-season and missed the first two months of this campaign. A scan today will reveal the extent of his injury.

The 27-year-old was in obvious pain as he exited the field by stretcher with ten minutes of the Reading game remaining.

After the match, O’Neill revealed that the primary prognosis was ligament damage.

Johnson lasted just 45 minutes, but was limping noticeably by the end of the first half after taking a few heavy knocks.

The potential loss of Rose will be the most concerning for O’Neill as the player – on loan from Tottenham – has been outstanding in recent matches, particularly since moving into midfield from left-back.

The 22-year-old set-up Steven Fletcher for Sunderland’s second goal on Tuesday with an excellent run and cross.

Rose tried to carry on until the end despite having received a couple of blows, however, the club believe he does have a chance of facing Man United.

Sunderland’s first team report back to the Academy of Light this morning when O’Neill will hope for some encouraging news.

Meanwhile, Reading manager Brian McDermott will hold talks with Danny Guthrie this week after the midfielder pulled out of the trip to Sunderland.

The 25-year-old, a summer signing from Newcastle, did not travel to Wearside after telling McDermott his “head was not right”, prompting a withering response from his manager.

McDermott said: “He made a decision that his head wasn’t right to travel.

“Everyone has got to be going in the same direction, that’s really, really important for me as a group, and we have had that for a period of time.

“You have to put yourself up to be selected in each and every game, and that means every player.

“His words were his head wasn’t right. He would have been travelling.”


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