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Q&A with Roker Report | A Sunderland perspective ahead of Saturday's match

Former United defender Steve Bruce returns to Old Trafford on Saturday.
Former United defender Steve Bruce returns to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Manchester United return to English Premier League action on Saturday after yesterday's European tie with Otelul Galati. Sunderland make the trek west this weekend when former United defender -- and current Black Cats' manager -- Steve Bruce and his squad visit Old Trafford. Ahead of this match, we reached out to Roker Report -- a Sunderland fansite -- and their lead editor Simon Walsh was kind enough to answer the questions provided by us here at The Busby Babe. The majority of these questions were once again asked by you the readers. Here is the Q&A:

TBB: How do you feel about Steve Bruce and the job that he has done so far at Sunderland? It appears that he was given financial backing over the summer -- which I'm basing on the numerous players brought in. Is there disappointment with him? If so, how close might he be to possibly being sacked?

RR: Bruce was given money as he always is, but one thing he's been very good at is buying and selling. for the money spent, he's also recouped plenty. So whilst he outlaid plenty on the likes of O'Shea, Gardner etc, he was sitting on £24m from Darren Bent, £16m from Jordan Henderson as well as a few nobodies leaving too. 

So that's the good, but there's also disappointment with the start of the season, and right now we're in a bit of no-mans-land. Perhaps our annual mid-season slump we just got out the way early this time around... or was it a sign of things to come, as yet we really don't know, but the next few games will be telling.

I think prior to a shift in tactics which got wins at Bolton and a draw with Villa, he was very very close to the door. The tide hasn't completely turned, but he's certainly bought time.
TBB: What are your overall thoughts on the season thus far? What were expectations coming into the season? What are they now? How have Sunderland supporters reacted to the surprising start over at Toon?

RR: Expectation was high coming into the season. We'd made solid additions to the team, they'd had time to bed in, and even Bruce himself proclaimed it was the best squad we'd ever had... Then Bruce bemoaned the fans for having any sort of expectation! 

We're all very disappointed with the start, but personally my aim for a top ten finish still remains. We did last year even if it was via the backdoor, and we have a considerably better squad this year. As for Newcastle's start to the season, there's always some people who will be green-eyed-monsters, but not here. That's not to say I respect them, I just couldn't give two shits about their start to the season whilst we have our own problems.
TBB: How have our old boys -- Wes Brown and John O'Shea -- done so far?

RR: John O'Shea & Wes Brown have surprised me in that the seem to have assumed each others roles. I expected O'Shea to be the leader, and a wonderful signing who would cement our defence, whilst Brown to be a crock who was alright... thus far though, Wes has been a man mountain whilst John O'Shea has been alright if unspectacular in his few games. Pleased with both though, don't get me wrong.

TBB: Thoughts on Asamoah Gyan leaving and also on Darren Bent's departure last January? How have the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Connor Wickham fared as replacements? The latter seems like a bright prospect. Also, what of the Korean Ji Dong-Won?

RR: Bent & Gyan leaving were sickeners. Players move for money, yes we get that, and I doubt many at SAFC are here for the experience or love, everybody knows that. It's the fact these two banged on about how much they loved it here, wanted to be legends etc and then left. Of course it was all lip service, but sometimes you want to believe it, and at the time they seemed sincere. the crowd won't be fooled again.

TBB: Has Bruce tried anything interesting tactically? Do you feel that he got his tactics right thus far?

RR: Steve Bruce has never tried anything interesting in his life, never mind tactically. However of late there has been a shift in tactics as I mentioned earlier. We're back to 4-4-2 after unsuccessfully dicking about with 4-5-1 and 4-4-1-1, and it seems to be working. It's not your standard 4-4-2 either, in possession, Sessegnon cuts in from the left to form 3 up front with Richardson bombing down the wing and O'Shea cutting in to make 3 centrebacks so it's sort of a 3-4-3.

TBB: Finally, would you mind providing us a predicted starting XI and score for Saturday?

RR: There'll be a few changes through injury so this is your likely line-up... Westwood; Bardsley, Turner, Brown, Richardson; Larsson, Vaughan, Colback, Sessegnon; Wickham, Bendtner.

As for replacing those two though, Bentdner and Wickham have only just started playing together, but it's certainly working. They already have the makings of a great partnership as you can see from their movement. It's a joy to watch at times. Ji Dong-Won remains one for the future. He's done ok so far, but temper expectations.
It's worked so far, but I hope we don't afford any respect to United on Saturday and we continue with it as we need to become accustomed to it. I'd much rather we went for it in this adventurous formation and got beat say 3-0 than played a rigid 4-5-1 and lost 1-0.