Advocaat has no fresh injury concerns this week, and his options are boosted by the return of Younes Kaboul from suspension.
In our poll this week, we asked who should partner John O’Shea at the heart of Sunderland’s defence. The previous two games has done Sebastian Coates no favours, although Kaboul has similarly regressed. However, as one of our readers pointed out, there may have been an option overlooked.
Step forward Jack Rodwell.
Of course, since early last season, fans were calling for Rodwell to be paired with O’Shea at the back, with the former City man often anonymous in midfield. Those calls fell on deaf ears, with neither Gus Poyet nor Dick Advocaat daring to risk it.
Advocaat has today, however, hinted that he could use Rodwell in the back line in the future, saying:
“It was something I thought about last season when he was not in the team. In principle, he is a centre-half in origin. He is good in the air, he has got two good feet. We have too many players who just kick the ball away”
There is a sense of a missed opportunity, however, given Sunderland’s defeat in the cup has left little room for experimenting, with the Exeter game in particular seemingly an ideal opportunity.
It’s also unlikely Rodwell will start at Old Trafford alongside O’Shea, with Kaboul expected to replace Coates at the back. In fact, Rodwell may even find himself amongst the subs come 3pm on Saturday, with Lee Cattermole impressive in the second half after replacing the former City man.
Another change to Sunderland’s fragile defence will see Billy Jones return, although not necessarily for right-back DeAndre Yedlin. After Jones’ recent improvement, Advocaat has confirmed it is Patrick van Aanholt at risk, with both Jones and Yedlin capable of filling in at left back. The news will comes as a great relief to fans on Wearside, given the Dutchman’s struggles this season.
As such, it seems Advocaat may only make the four changes, with Pantilimon also returning in goal, notably leaving the front line as it was against City, depending on Adam Johnson’s fitness. After making his first start since the opening day on Tuesday night, Johnson played the full ninety minutes, keeping Jermain Defoe on the bench and Borini through the middle.
With the intention to leave Borini in his central role, Advocaat is unlikely to turn to Defoe for the wide role, believing Johnson could offer more support for the full backs.
Predicted Line Up: Pantilimon; Jones, O’Shea, Kaboul, Yedlin; M’Vila, Cattermole, Toivonen; Lens, Borini, Johnson.
Would you be happy with that team, or would you make more changes? Let us know in the comments below.