Preview: Sir Alex’s anniversary clash with Sunderland as Manchester City meet up with old boy Barton at QPR

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

Sir Alex Ferguson leads Manchester United into his 25th year this weekend as they host Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Manchester City travel to QPR and will come face to face with controversial ex-player Joey Barton.

On Sunday, out of sorts Wigan Athletic travel to fellow strugglers Wolves, and Bolton host Stoke at the Reebok.

In League One, Oldham Athletic and Bury face off in a derby match, whilst Rochdale travel to Buckinghamshire to play Milton Keynes Dons.

In the Blue Square Premier, Stockport County host Hayes & Yeading United at Edgeley Park.

Manchester United vs Sunderland, Saturday, 3pm, live on Radio 5 live. TV highlights on MOTD.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United have come a long way since his first game in charge – a 2-0 reverse to Oxford United.

Fergie has established himself as the best manager of his era, (and most probably all time) since then, winning countless league titles, domestic and European cups.

This season however sees United facing one of the biggest challenges in Ferguson’s 25 years – arch rivals and neighbours Manchester City.

The crushing derby defeat two weeks ago has left United playing catch up to City, who they trail by five points.

Victories over Everton and Romanian champions Otelul Galati in the Champion’s League in the past week however indicate a return to form for the Red Devils.

Injuries are mounting up at Old Trafford though before ex Red Steve Bruce’s team arrive for tomorrow’s game.

Michael Owen, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling all definitely miss out, with Brazilian midfielder Anderson joining Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra on the doubtful list.

John O’Shea, who moved to Sunderland in the summer after spending his career to date at Old Trafford, misses out on this weekend’s game with a hamstring problem.

However, O’Shea is not the only ex-Red hoping to put a dampener on Fergie’s celebrations this weekend.

 Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown and Keiron Richardson all return and will try their hardest to ensure a first win for Steve Bruce over his old boss in 17 attempts.

QPR vs Manchester City, Saturday, 5.30, live on ESPN

Roberto Mancini takes his Manchester City side to Loftus Road on Sunday on the back of an important midweek Champion’s League victory over Villareal.

Mario Balotelli’s goal and a Yaya Toure double puts City in second place in Group A, and eliminated the Spaniards in the process.

Coupled with their good form, they may be able to welcome back Owen Hargreaves after a calf complaint, and David Silva’s back will be assessed before making the trip to London.

Vice captain Vincent Kompany will sit the game out however as he serves a suspension for a red card in last month’s victory over Wolves.

City are still unbeaten in the League as the season enters its fourth month, only dropping points in a 2-2 draw against Fulham in September.

This weekend sees the first time City will come up against Joey Barton in QPR colours – where he appears to be revelling in being made skipper.

Barton – so often making the headlines for the wrong reasons, despite his obvious talent – led his team to victoy over Chelsea a fortnight ago and the newly promoted side sit 12th in the league.

Manager Neil Warnock faces going into this game without first team regulars Adel Taarabt, Armand Traore, Shaun Derry and Akos Buszaky.

Last weekend saw City discover their League Cup quarter final opponents – Mancini’s men face a trip to Arsenal in the last eight.

Bolton Wanderers vs Stoke City Sunday, 3pm, live on BBC Radio 5.  TV highlights on MOTD2.

Alarm bells will be ringing louder than ever at the Reebok Stadium as Tony Pulis brings his Stoke City team on Sunday.

Last weekend’s 3-1 reverse at Swansea City was Bolton’s third loss in a row, and they are now marooned in the bottom three with just six points from ten games.

Owen Coyle knows he can no longer use the tough opening fixtures his side faced as an excuse for their current plight, as newly promoted teams Norwich and Swansea have been able to brush them aside with relative ease.

Coyle will be without Rocardo Gardner this weekend after the Jamaican’s red card against Swansea.

Striker Kevin Davies could return, with Paul Robinson set to deputise in Gardner’s absence.

England defender Gary Cahill is adamant that Wanderers can reverse their fortunes.

He said: “We want to turn it around for the fans and for the manager, and we need to do it as soon as possible, starting with Stoke, and we will be going all out for a good result.”  

Stoke make the trip to the Reebok on the back of a Europa League trip to Israel, where they were 2-1 winners against Maccabi Tel Aviv last night.  Bolton will be looking to take advantage of any travel weariness from the Potters.

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Wigan Athletic Sunday, 1.30pm, live on Sky Sports 1

Bottom of the table Wigan travel to the Black Country on Sunday for a game that has six-pointer written all over it, even at this stage of the season.

Roberto Martinez’s side prop up the Premier League after last weekend’s defeat against Fulham took them to seven straight league defeats.

The likeable Spaniard will have to rouse his players for this game without captain Gary Caldwell, who is suspended after picking up five yellow cards this season.

Mohamed Diame may feature however after his ankle injury was found not to be as bad as originally thought.

If Martinez can see any silver lining in this game, it will be that Wolves haven’t won in eight games – nearly three months.

Midfielder David Jones – formerly of Wolves – believes Martinez has built a squad more than capable of fighting off relegation.

He said: “I’m confident in the ability we have in the team here will allow us to go on a run of really good results, we just need that first one to start us off.”   

Oldham Athletic vs Bury

Both Richie Barker and Paul Dickov will be looking to use this derby game to boost their team’s chances of a top ten position.

Both teams lie in midtable and victories against the teams surrounding them are crucial to their ambitions.

Oldham drew last weekend at Carlisle, while their opponents suffered a home defeat to Stevenage.

Dickov has brought in two emergency loan signings this week, both from Manchester City.

Striker Luca Scapuzzi and midfielder Andreas Mancini – son of Roberto – have joined on two and one month loan deals respectively.

James Wesolowski misses out through a knee injury.

Bury manager Barker has lost Trevor Carson to parent club Sunderland.  Steve Bruce recalled the goalkeeper after Simon Mignolet fractured his eye socket and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. 

David Amoo and Mark Cullen again miss out through injury, whilst David Worrall faces a late fitness test after suffering from tonsillitis.

Shakers captain Steven Schumacher summed up the situation.

He said: “I love derby games – they are right up my street.”

Milton Keynes Dons vs Rochdale

Steve Eyre’s Rochdale travel to Milton Keynes on Saturday knowing a victory would move them out of the relegation places.

The Spotland outfit are in bad form though with no win in five games, and their play-off chasing opponents are likely to prove tough opposition.

The manager said: “We know that we’ll have them up for it and we’ll always give a 100% and we’ve always got half a chance that way.”

Eyre has welcomed two new faces to the club this week – Chesterfield defender Dean Holden and Manchester City youth striker Harry Bunn have both joined on temporary deals until January.

Neal Trotman has gone to Chesterfield in a swap deal for Holden, with both men returning to their parent clubs in the new year, with both clubs retaining an option of a permanent deal.

Stockport County vs Hayes & Yeading United

It’s back to League action for County this weekend after they were unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup before the first round draw last week.

Didi Hamann’s side host Hayes & Yeading and will be looking to stop a run of four consecutive home defeats.

It is the first ever meeting between the two clubs, and Hamann will welcome back  Matt Glennon, Ryan Fraughan and Tom Elliott who missed the Southport defeat through injury.

Sean McConville and Danny Rowe are still a couple of games away from returning.

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