MARTIN O’Neill has promised to respect the title by fielding his strongest side against Manchester United tomorrow.
The Black Cats’ boss is perfectly entitled to experiment in the last game of the season, with little riding on it for the home team.
But he says he has no intention of disrespecting the eagerly-awaited title deciders this Sunday.
He told the Echo: “Obviously this is a very important game in the context of the Premier League season and what happens at the top of the table and we have to respect that.
“Manchester City and Manchester United both want to be crowned champions this weekend and I’m sure Manchester City will expect us to be as competitive as possible.
“Having said that, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the title, it’s also an important game to us as well and one that we want to win.
“To that end, we’ll be putting out a side which we hope will make life as difficult as possible for Manchester United and give them a difficult game.
“I think everyone already knows exactly Manchester United want, and need, to win this game.
“But also, we really want to win the game for the sake our ourselves, our fans and our final league position.”
Sunderland go into the game with a near full-strength side to choose from.
John O’Shea has not trained this week, but that is not expected to keep him out of contention for the game against his former club.
Otherwise, Sunderland have a clean bill of health and O’Neill will have to decide whether to continue with Ji Dong-won or whether to restore Nicklas Bendtner to the starting line-up.
He has also been further boosted by the return of several players.
The manager told the Echo: “Wes Brown, Titus Bramble, Kieran Richardon and Connor Wickham have all been involved in training this week.
“Titus has got another week under his belt, Wes is doing well and both Kieran and Connor have been back this week and all of them could be pushing for the squad on match day.
“We’ll have to wait until the day itself before deciding what to do.
“But it’s good to have so many players returning to health.”