Sunderland sweat on foursome’s fitness for Man Utd clash

Adam Johnson'Sunderland AFC v Cheslsea FC'Barclays Premier League'Stadium of Light'SOL
Adam Johnson'Sunderland AFC v Cheslsea FC'Barclays Premier League'Stadium of Light'SOL

MARTIN O’Neill will run the rule over Sunderland’s walking wounded ahead of tomorrow’s game against Manchester United.

Adam Johnson, Danny Rose and Phil Bardsley were all substituted in the win over Reading with varying degrees of injury.

And O’Neill admitted after Tuesday’s game that he was uncertain whether any of them will be fit enough to play at Old Trafford.

“We’ve got quite a few knocks,” the Black Cats boss acknowledged.

“With Adam it is a dead leg and we’re hoping he will be OK for the weekend.

“Danny Rose took a number of knocks during the game and he did well to play on after the first one.

“As for Phil, it looks as though it could be ligament trouble.”

Rose, who has been in scintillating form, in recent weeks is reckoned to have the best chance of playing tomorrow.

O’Neill said: “Danny’s just taken a succession of knocks but I don’t think he’s suffered anything too serious.”

Johnson is likely to be touch and go depending on how bad the muscle damage is to the injured leg while Bardsley must be a real doubt if the ligament damage is anyone more than the slightest of tweaks.

So far the manager has resisted the temptation to recall on-loan David Meyler from Hull City, despite skipper Lee Cattermole being sidelined for two months with knee ligament damage.

But the pressure will mount if Bardsley is out for any length of time.

The most obvious option if the full-back doesn’t make it is to drop Craig Gardner to right-back – a job the Brummie midfielder has performed admirably when called upon this season.

But that would only leave O’Neill with the midfield options of Jack Colback, David Vaughan and Seb Larsson.

The manager could of course choose to stick with the central-defensive pairing which finished the Reading game – Titus Bramble and John O’Shea - and put centre-half Carlos Cuellar in the right-back role the Spaniard regularly filled when he was at Aston Villa.

Whatever manager decides, there can be no doubt that Sunderland’s squad is starting to be tested to the limit ahead of the January transfer window – something which O’Neill expected.

He said: “It’s a busy festive programme and an awful lot of games in December.

“And I always felt that everyone in the squad was likely to be called on to play a part at some stage.”