The 44-year-old will send his relegation-haunted side into the white-hot cauldron of Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Sunday admitting that the Tyne-Wear showdown, which this year could have significant consequences for the respective participants, represents as difficult a test as any he has faced in his career to date. Di Canio said: “I can’t wait, I can’t wait. We live for it. We live to win cups or we live to qualify for the Europa League, to play in the Champions League, we live to play at the top level. But you know here, the result can change the mood for the derby next year because there is a joke between the fans. They work together at the office.” He added: “I know what is going on – in Rome it is similar, even if here it is more tough because we are talking about two different cities very close. This one is very, very tough. We know for what reason – Celtic v Rangers, there is a fire in this derby for not only sports reasons, we all know this. “But this one is one of the toughest, in my opinion, in the world and I am more than happy to have this chance.” Di Canio, of course, is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, sometimes to his detriment, but he knows derby day is one for cool heads. Sunderland came close to snatching their first win on Tyneside since November 2000 last season despite having Stephane Sessegnon sent off 13 minutes after the break, and skipper Lee Cattermole followed him after the final whistle following Shola Ameobi’s last-gasp equaliser. And the Italian admits discipline will be key to his side’s hopes this time around. When it was suggested to him that he had been an excitable player himself, Di Canio replied with a smile: “Just a few times. “We know what happened last year. It wasn’t a very friendly game. We have to make sure, even if I can’t wait – already it is easy to imagine that the players are going to give everything – but we have to show our character, we have to drive our energy in a positive way. “We know sometimes, some players can lose their temper maybe because they want to show the fans they can be proud of them, and they can do something that puts the team in trouble. I will try to persuade them to use their energy to score a goal and to defend well to beat them and maybe celebrate the victory.” Sunderland manager Paolo di Canio cannot wait to experience “one of the toughest” derbies in world football. Press Association
“Throughout my career I have played on the left, on the right and just behind the striker,” Mata said. “I don’t mind playing anywhere the manager tells me.” It is easy to understand why Mata is content to be shifted around the United team. After spending most of the first half of the season on the bench at Chelsea, Mata is just happy to be on the pitch. And having found a place to live in Manchester, Mata finally seems to have finally found contentment in the north west after a difficult six-month period which has put the player’s chances of playing in the World Cup in jeopardy. “I am happy at the club, very happy,” Mata said. “I am enjoying my football, I am getting minutes on the pitch, I am in a very, very big club and I hope we finish the season well. “David De Gea has helped me settle, the same with Chicharito (Javier Hernandez), (Antonio) Valencia, and Rafael, they all speak Spanish but everyone there has helped me. “People like (Ryan) Giggs have been here for many years and there’s (Wayne) Rooney and (Robin) van Persie, they have all treated me phenomenally well.” So while Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool take part in the FA Cup, United have decided to embark on a short break to Dubai. When they return, Mata hopes United will be ready to push for that Champions League place which currently seems to be slipping through their fingers. “We are going to rest a bit, train as a group and prepare ourselves for the rest of the season,” Mata said. “Once we come back from this mini break hopefully we will win many matches.” Mata has only been on the winning side once since his £37.1million transfer from Chelsea. Moyes started by playing Mata in the number 10 position against Cardiff, but the Spaniard began the clash at the Emirates on the left flank. Moyes has a wealth of options when it comes to attacking midfielders so it will take a while before the Scot works out the best way to integrate the former Valencia man into his starting line-up. Mata insists he is happy to play wherever his manager chooses, though. United slipped 11 points behind fourth-placed Liverpool on Wednesday after an underwhelming goalless draw at Arsenal. One advantage United have over their rivals is that they have nine days until their next match, which is away at Crystal Palace. Press Association Juan Mata hopes Manchester United’s warm-weather training camp in Dubai will kick start the reigning champions’ faltering season.