Brown warns of ‘hungry’ United

• Defender wary of former side in Capital Cup semi-final
• 'United will be hurting and they will be motivated against us'

Wes Brown knows all about feeling untouchable one moment and distinctly mortal the next. Not so long ago Sunderland's key centre-half was winning trophies galore with Manchester United while collecting 23 England caps but then serious knee trouble intervened.

After spending 22 months on the sidelines and defying compelling advice telling him to retire last summer, few are better placed than Brown to emphasise the fragility of footballing success. He fully understands the bewilderment of his former United colleagues as they prepare for Tuesday night's Capital One Cup semi-final first leg on Wearside in the wake of not only a humiliating home FA Cup defeat to Swansea but also a disappointing league campaign.

"They won't be happy with results so far," said Brown, whose return from that long-standing injury in October has represented a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for Sunderland. "United are used to being top three in the league all the time. They won the title last season and would have been expecting to win it again this year, but a lot has changed and it's maybe taking a bit more time than expected to get things right."

The 34-year-old empathises with David Moyes. "Personally I feel it would have been the same for whoever had gone in to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. I feel sure United will turn it around but, right now, not being up there with the top teams, they'll be hurting. So many of their players have won so many things and their pride will have been dented. I'm sure they all believe that if they carry on giving 100% it will all come right but, until then, they've got to stick together."

Brown has reminded his team-mates of the old cliche about animals often being at their most dangerous when wounded. "United will be very motivated," he said. "It should give us confidence that they're not having one of their best seasons. That's something we have to take advantage of but, make no mistake, they'll be just as hungry as us. They want a trophy.

"In all my years at United I can't remember losing too many semi-finals. We had a pretty good record once we reached the later stages of cups. We were favourites in most of them and I can't recall us losing to an underdog. United are pretty much up there with the best when it comes to reaching cup finals so we're under no illusions. It's a tough ask. If he plays, I might have to kick Wayne [Rooney], let him know I'm there."

He feels that if Gus Poyet's side are to have any hope of reaching Wembley it is imperative Sunderland, stuck to the bottom of the Premier League, win the first leg. "It's not one of those where you feel you can get a draw at home and then sneak a win at Old Trafford,"Brown said. "We're looking to win here and set out our tactics for the return.

"We've got to take encouragement from the fact we've done well against big teams this season; we've beaten Manchester City and Chelsea. That should give us confidence."

Poyet says Brown "sees things before the rest" and his presence at the heart of Sunderland's defence will worry Moyes. Despite being "sore" after playing in Sunday's 3-1 home win over Carlisle United, Brown would be horrified were his manager to rest him before Saturday's all-important league trip to Fulham.

"United is certainly a game I don't want to miss," he said. "Due to injuries I've only played against them once since I've been here; I scored an own goal at Old Trafford.

"We're in a bad position in the league and need to sort it out but we've got half a season left and this game is massive.

"Someone asked me the other day which I'd rather do; win the [League] Cup or stay up. Personally, I'd rather stay up because I've been fortunate to win a few things, but we're in the semi-finals now. The United lads might still be my mates but I'm desperate to win. It would be massive to reach Wembley and give the fans a cup final.

"Memories of 1973 [When Sunderland won the FA Cup] are all over the place. At the training ground there are photos down every corridor. It would be great to do it again." © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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