SUNDERLAND, December 23 – Steve Bruce takes his Sunderland side to Old Trafford this weekend hoping both he and they can end a winless run against Premier League leaders Manchester United.
Former United centre-half Bruce is still waiting for his first win as a manager against Sir Alex Ferguson – who made him skipper at Old Trafford and has just become the club’s longest-serving boss.
Sunderland’s last win at Old Trafford was back in 1968 and they have not beaten United anywhere in 14 attempts since a 2-1 English League Cup win at the Stadium of Light 10 years ago.
Bruce almost broke his duck against Ferguson at Old Trafford last season when an injury-time own-goal by Anton Ferdinand — brother of United’s Rio — meant Sunderland had to settle for a 2-2 draw instead of a memorable victory.
This season has seen Sunderland, an impressive sixth in the table and seven points behind United, win 3-0 away to English champions Chelsea.
United have yet to lose a league match this term — they’ve won nine and drawn seven — but Bruce was adamant that, whatever else happened, his team would be unafraid to push for victory.
"I have tried hard and not had one yet, and we will keep trying," he said.
"To be fair, there are a few managers out there who have probably witnessed it – certainly nobody has beaten them this year, have they?
"We know what to expect, it will be difficult. But I always enjoy going back, even if I do come back with my backside kicked.
"For me, a lot of teams are beaten in the tunnel. You must go and take part in the game; you must go and have the courage to take the ball and take them on, and if you do that, then you have got a chance.
"Even then, you have still got to play to your maximum. Let’s be fair, they don’t lose many at home.
"But it’s a great place to go and play. If you have anything about you at all, these are the games that you should enjoy playing in.
"Seventy-odd thousand at Old Trafford – fantastic, that’s what you play football for and that’s where you can go and show your skills.
"Last year, we played very well. To be fair, we have played very well at home against them twice as well, so let’s hope we can maintain it."
But Sunderland will be without seven first-choice players.
Danny Welbeck, whose goal beat Bolton last Saturday, is ineligible due to his loan agreement with United, while Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole is suspended and Titus Bramble, Michael Turner, John Mensah, Fraizer Campbell and David Meyler are injured.