SUNDERLAND will firm up their interest in Manchester United youngster Ethan Galbraith this week, and with the Black Cats’ first-team squad returning for the start of pre-season training tomorrow morning, Lee Johnson will also be pushing for a swift resolution to the club’s outstanding contractual talks.

Sunderland’s players will be back at the Academy of Light tomorrow morning, with the club’s opening pre-season friendly at Spennymoor Town due to take place on Saturday, but Johnson finds himself extremely short of numbers after seven senior players were released at the end of last season.

With four more first-team regulars – Denver Hume, Luke O’Nien, Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke - still involved in talks over their future, Johnson and the rest of Sunderland’s recruitment team are aware of the need for reinforcements.

They have spent the last couple of weeks lining up possible deals, and Johnson is hopeful he will be announce the first raft of summer arrivals before the weekend.

Sunderland officials have signalled their interest in 20-year-old Galbraith, who is expected to leave Manchester United on a season-long loan in order to secure some senior experience.

The midfielder, who is already a full Northern Ireland international after making his senior debut in a friendly with Luxembourg in 2019, joined Manchester United’s academy from Linfield in 2017.

He was a regular with the club’s Under-23s last season, and has been earmarked for a loan move this season rather than remaining with United’s youth set-up.

Sunderland are one of a number of League One clubs to have expressed an interest, and while sides in the Championship are also understood to be keen, Manchester United’s priority is to send Galbraith somewhere he will be all-but-guaranteed to play. With that in mind, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might well opt for a club in League One rather than in the second tier.

Johnson continues to hold discussions with the Wolves board over Dion Sanderson, and has also been involved in the contractual talks with Hume, O’Nien, McGeady and Wyke.

Ideally, he would like those discussions to be resolved one way or the other in the next few days, with McGeady set to extend his stay at the Stadium of Light and Wyke expected to leave. O’Nien had been expected to move elsewhere, but there have been more positive signs in the last week or so and the 26-year-old now looks likely to sign a new deal on Wearside.

“I have been part of the process to determine what we need, and how we are going to do it in terms of matching the data with the eye and the football nous,” said Johnson, in an interview with Sunderland’s official website.

“That’s been an enjoyable process but it will be even more enjoyable when we start getting players through the door and can start working with them, building a new XI and a new squad to hopefully be able to implement what we are trying to achieve.

“There’s not much I can do (on the first day back) apart from have a five-a-side, I think, given the number of players we have got coming back at the moment! But I do expect a trickle of new players, and hopefully players re-signing where possible.”