SAFC v Reading

It'll be a real battle - MON

by Stuart Vose

Boss speaks ahead of Old Trafford test.

Martin O’Neill says spirits are high in the Sunderland camp ahead of a “difficult” assignment at Manchester United this weekend.

The Black Cats take on the league leaders at Old Trafford on Saturday hoping to spring a surprise at the expense of a United side who have been in fine form this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s outfit sit six points clear of Manchester City, and O’Neill says Sunderland’s midweek win over Reading came at an ideal time ahead of the game.

“The players have always been in decent spirits, but the midweek result has given us a boost and hopefully we can continue that over the Christmas and New Year,” he said.

“We’ve got a set of games coming up now which are particularly difficult.

“We go to Old Trafford with Manchester United a number of points clear at the top, so it’s a difficult game for us.

“But the winning of the game during the week has given us that confidence boost and we go there in very fine spirits.”

The trip to United kicks off a busy festive schedule which features home clashes with Manchester City and Spurs as well as trips to Southampton and Liverpool.

But O’Neill will take things one game at a time rather than taking the Christmas period as a whole.

“I don’t think we can look that far forward,” he said. “Bigger teams than us can perhaps plan a set of games, but we’re not in that position.

“We must treat each game on its merits, do our very best and try to win – it really is as simple of that.

“The next game will then take care of itself, one way or the other.”

Meanwhile O’Neill is the only manager in history to have won at Old Trafford with two different clubs but says such records are a thing of the past.

“These are different times now,” he explained. “We’ve a real battle on but as I’ve said we can go there with some confidence.

“We must play with some sort of freedom. You have to compete every single week in this league.

“[The players] must go and play.”