JACK Colback insists facing Manchester United will be the ultimate test of his progress as he looks to follow in the footsteps of boyhood idol Paul Scholes.
Sunderland’s homegrown midfielder is expected to make his Old Trafford bow tomorrow, six months after forcing his way into the Black Cats starting XI.
In his brief stint as a Premier League regular, Colback has already pitted himself on the big stage at Anfield and the Emirates.
But the 22-year-old believes tomorrow’s trip to the reigning top flight champions is the true barometer of how far he has developed since returning from a second loan spell at Championship Ipswich Town.
Colback modelled himself on recently-retired United legend Scholes during his formative years at Sunderland’s academy and hopes he can do himself justice this weekend.
“I always used to keep an eye on Paul Scholes when I was younger and it wasn’t just because of his hair!” Colback said.
“He showed that you didn’t have to be 6ft plus to make it in the Premier League.
“His range of passing and ability on the ball was so good that he became one of the top players in the country.
“I have never been to Old Trafford as a player, but if I’m selected, I know I’m there on merit and there to play for football.
“For me, it will be a great experience and one that you dream about when you’re growing up.
“It will be a great test for me to so how far I’ve progressed against a top team.”
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has a decision to make over who joins Colback in the middle of the park tomorrow, with the Black Cats likely to revert to a five-man midfield.
Regardless of the system, Colback expects an onslaught from the hosts in the first Premier League encounter at Old Trafford since United’s 6-1 spanking at the hands of neighbours Manchester City.
But Colback is confident there are avenues for Sunderland to exploit, with United conceding as many top flight goals as Bruce’s men this season.
He added: “I’m not sure what the manager intends to do with the formation, but we have to keep it tight in midfield and not allow them any time on the ball.
“They have got some massive players and quality throughout the team.
“I don’t think there is a good time to go to Old Trafford anyway.
“Obviously, they had a bad result against Manchester City but then they bounced back well against Everton and in the cups.
“But Everton created a lot of chances and hopefully we can take heart from that and give a good account of ourselves.
“United’s style of play this season has been very open and attacking and they have scored a lot of goals because of that.
“But they have conceded goals too. It’s something we need to exploit tomorrow if we are to get something.
“As good as they are, they are not invincible. We’ve got to set our stall out, start the game well and then we’ve got enough quality going forward to worry them.”