Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat believes his struggling squad is stronger than last season as he eyes a surprise win at Manchester United on Saturday.
Advocaat guided the Wearsiders to Premier League safety in 20014-15 thanks to a strong run of form in April and May and subsequently signed the likes of Jeremain Lens, Yann M’Vila, Fabio Borini and Younes Kaboul.
The new arrivals have failed to improve Sunderland’s fortunes, though, and they go to Old Trafford propping up the table having taken just two points from their opening six games.
A 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City in the League Cup on Tuesday further exposed Sunderland’s defensive frailties but Advocaat is adamant an upturn in form is just around the corner.
He said at Friday’s press conference: “I still think, with my experience, that if you bring in players it takes time. They need to get used to the league and the team.
“Last season we did a great job and everybody was positive, but we’re still positive and we have a better squad than last season.”
Sunderland have an appalling record against United, having won just one of their last 26 Premier League meetings, but Advocaat has backed his players to offer Louis van Gaal’s men a stern test.
“Normally United would beat us but we can give them a really tough time. That will happen, you will see,” he added.
“If you have a draw there [Old Trafford] you have a great result. They are a team who will fight for the championship.
“You have nothing to lose against United and if we are well organised, and try to hurt them a bit, then why not.
“Against City we created three of four chances and a little bit the same against Spurs. We will have opportunities to score.”
Jack Rodwell and Jermain Defoe are doubts but Advocaat expects the latter to overcome a hamstring injury.