In-form striker Darren Bent has warned Manchester United not to expect an easy day out at Sunderland this weekend.
United head for the Stadium of Light on Saturday trailing reigning Barclays Premier League champions Chelsea by three points after just six games.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men lost 1-0 at Manchester City last weekend 24 hours before United were held 2-2 at Bolton.
There were also four goals in Sunderland’s game at Liverpool, although it is a measure of the Black Cats’ blossoming confidence that they returned from Anfield disappointed not to be doing so with all three points after referee Stuart Attwell’s decision to allow Dirk Kuyt’s controversial opener.
The draw on Merseyside came a week after Bent’s late equaliser secured a point against Arsenal and five after his last-gasp penalty sent City home from Wearside empty-handed to emphasise Sunderland’s growing success rate against the bigger clubs.
Bent told SAFC TV: “As long as we take the great positives from what we did against Liverpool into the Manchester United game, I am sure we will be okay because at home against the big boys, we have been playing so, so well.
“Everyone seems to lift their game and the crowd lifts us and we seem to get the results we want to get, so if we can continue with the performance from Liverpool and take it into the United game, then it should be a good, good game.
“I can’t remember the last time we lost to a so-called big team at home.”
The answer to Bent’s poser is that United were the last member of the Premier League’s aristocracy to win at the Stadium of Light when Nani’s 28th-minute strike secured a narrow 1-0 victory on May 2 this year, although it has been something of a rare occurrence during Steve Bruce’s reign as manager.
Chelsea’s 3-1 success on Wearside in August last year was followed by 1-0 wins over both Liverpool and Arsenal, while Tottenham, who finished fourth last season, lost 3-1 in April.
Bent is fully aware of the talent at United boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal even without the injured and out of form Wayne Rooney.
However, he is confident that Sunderland will more than give them a game if they perform as they have done to date on their own pitch this season.
He said: “United have got some top, top players – they have got Rooney, [Dimitar] Berbatov, who has been on fire this year, [Paul] Scholes, [Ryan] Giggs, Nani...the names are endless with the talent they have in their team.
“But at the same time, on Saturday they have got to come and play on the same pitch we have got to play on.
“The main thing is that we set our stall out and make it hard for them to beat us, and then we go from there and make sure we play our game and cause them a few problems.”
England international Bent goes into the game with eight goals to his name for the new campaign, seven of them for Sunderland and five of those in the league, a return which leaves him just one behind Berbatov and Chelsea’s Florent Malouda and level with Didier Drogba.
Meanwhile, Bruce has confirmed that keeper Simon Mignolet will keep his place this weekend despite Craig Gordon’s return to fitness.