What We Learned: Manchester United 2-1 Sunderland

After another desperately disappointing evening’s work at Old Trafford, United’s already slim trophy hopes for this season have almost evaporated after a shambolic penalty shootout loss to Sunderland saw Gus Poyet’s side book their place in the Capital One Cup final next month. The prospect of an all-Manchester final wasn’t enough to shake United of their January stupor, and the club will spend today digesting the magnitude and consequences of yet another costly defeat. The rest of us, of course, will discuss it more publicly.

United got exactly what they deserved
Over the course of three and a half hours of football, Sunderland were the better side. United certainly had useful periods, and the occasional opportunity to score, but over the entirety of this tie, the fact is that the Wearsiders deserved their victory and their place at Wembley this month. Sunderland simply wanted it more at almost every turn; they kept going even with time running out with a loss on away goals on the cards, with Phil Bardsley’s goal laced with a sense inevitability despite David De Gea’s mistake. From the beginning of the first leg at the Stadium of Light to the climactic penalty shootout, Sunderland showed greater strength than United and played without fear. Whatever your feelings towards United’s display over the two legs, one thing can be universally agreed on; Sunderland deserved it.

The penalty shootout was an absolute disaster

As acid tests of David Moyes’ Manchester United side go, especially as they lumber on without their most potent attacking options, last night’s shootout was a perfect opportunity to invigorate the team from top to bottom. That it ended with one solitary spot-kick scored from five is embarrassing enough, but again, the squad has let itself down as two defenders had to step forward whilst more senior and attacking options stood by. Phil Jones and Rafael are great footballers but where was Valencia? Where was Patrice Evra? Neither were tired as both were substitutes. There was seemingly little complaint on the field when these more experienced heads passed on the opportunity of taking a penalty, and as such, it’s tough to lay the blame at the feet of two defenders who were brave enough to step forward. United’s failings in such an environment are hardly frequent, and these fans are far more forgiving than those forced to watch the national side and their frequent horror shows in the same situation, but watching last night’s tie end so limply after Hernandez’s late, great equaliser was chastening.

Manchester United Patrice Evra

The Old Trafford fear factor has struck United

There’s a delicious (and potentially sickening) irony in the fact that the home side are now the team looking to close out tight matches and not their traditionally fearful opponents at Old Trafford this season. Nothing like a taste of your own medicine. Last night showed two things; that Gus Poyet has thoroughly revitalised Sunderland and restored some of the belief stripped away by Paolo Di Canio’s destructive reign, and that United don’t have enough faith in themselves to see out such tight situations at present.

The crowd can’t be blamed, with the volume inside Old Trafford and atmosphere occasionally and understandably tense due to events on the pitch, but by no means toxic. Winning at home is not nearly as difficult as United are making out, and by consistently playing into their opponents hands and inviting pressure by sitting back, they create a large part of their own problems. More and more, we’re seeing teams seize the initiative as United dawdle, and results won’t improve if performances continue in this cautious, fearful vein.

Too much is expected of Adnan Januzaj

I doubt United’s management envisaged a situation where they were relying on an academy boy to add a desperately needed creative spark to the team’s attack during an extended slump, but due to injuries and the like, here’s where the team finds itself. Januzaj is an incredible talent, and has offered more going forward in this difficult month than several of his more experienced team mates put together, but last night showed that as exciting a talent as he is, he still needs support.

adnan-januzaj-vs-norwich2

The old adage says 18-year-olds are capable of playing every game that they can get their grubby little mitts on. Course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. Last night wasn’t a match that Januzaj could afford to miss, but over the two hours, there were enough signs to suggest that such a weight of expectation placed on his shoulders needs to be spread around a little. Several times he helped fashion a break for United or found himself in a decent attacking position only to send a weak shot at Vito Mannone or wide of his goal, with the worst being his ignoring of Phil Jones in space beside him after the substitute had busted at least two guts trying to join the attack. On the other hand, he set Javier Hernandez on course for what should have been the winning goal in the first-half of extra time, and sent an incredibly dangerous low cross into the box for the Mexican’s equaliser. Even when he doesn’t have the best game, he’s still far and away our greatest attacking threat of late.

This isn’t criticism for criticism’s sake; Januzaj made some errors but still provided more than most last night. The point is that he cannot be allowed to carry such a playmaking burden alone for much longer. Some balance has to be found between nurturing and pushing the boy, because at present, far too much is asked of him.

David Moyes needs his big players back, and fast

It says a lot about the season United are having that reaching the Capital One Cup final became the bare minimum expected of David Moyes in his first season in charge, and given the added significance of the showpiece game being a derby, victory last night felt essential. That Moyes couldn’t inspire enough confidence in his side for them to kill the second leg off after spending over an hour in the lead says much about the deficit of self-belief surrounding the club these days. Yes, his players let him down in a number of ways last night, but after a month full of failures, this feels significant. Most United fans will back Moyes in the knowledge of the greater issues at play, but eventually, a point is reached when you must question if this man is capable of carrying this club out of the mire that they’re in.

david-moyes-and-robin-van-persie

In the immediate short term, the lack of a game this coming weekend is an absolute blessing, allowing a full six days away from the limelight in order to potentially help United’s record signing to settle and make the necessary preparations needed in order to avoid a repeat performance against Cardiff next week. If there’s a chance to bring one of our injured striking duo back into the fold, even better. Mata, Rooney and Van Persie surely hold the key to saving Moyes’ season with the players left behind appearing ill-equipped and unable to win games without them. Their quality will hopefully compensate for a number of faults and buy their manager some breathing space. After that, who knows? Maybe this season will end on a positive note. Either way, Moyes desperately needs the lift that the return of his biggest players and his new signing can bring, because he is truly struggling to manage this group of players at present.

17 Comments

    • A tad unfair. How would Sir Alex have managed without RvP for nearly two months of the busiest period and Rooney for a month or more, to say nothing of Rio who was a star player last year. With these players missing last year, the title would have gone to the noisy neighbours. What exactly can Moysie do make up for the missing talent. It would have helped if Welbeck and Chicho had grabbed their chances. Watching him a OT on Wed, Welbeck spent most of his time wondering about aimlessly, hardly broke sweat. Give Mosie a break

  1. Ur missing the most important two points… Carrick was useless in the middle… And our attacking threat greatly dropped once Kagawa left the field!!! Kagawa = our next Scholes!!!

    once hes allowed to be that we will be soooooo much stronger.

    every time he had the ball in the middle he looked to be sooo close to breaking there defence.

    • Why do people keep thinking Kagawa is this amazing player?

      Hes good and when hes played he has had the odd bit here and there but i don’t think he has played well enough for him to be a certain start.

      Carrick is our BEST midfielder, he didn’t have a great game yesterday but overall I would start him over Kagawa.

    • seriously!!!!! carrick has had a horrific season!!! people criticise kagawa saying he has had no goals or assists… how many has carrick had??? the person who is the most certain starter???

      carrick barely makes a tackle, and spends most his ime deeper than our own centre backs!!! kagawa has barely played and shows a million times more promise than carrick!! i guarantee with carrick out our form will improve!

      i guarantee kagawa as a central midfielder (ideally partnered with mata) utd would be unbeatable! and i mean that!

      this idea carrick, is out best midfielder…. please show me proof!!!

      if kagawa cuts into the middle… he takes control… i havent even seen carrick come close to dictating play like kagawa can!

      carrick against sunderland… worst player on the pitch!!! as a united fan… i would not go to such lengths to continually slag of carrick if i did not honestly believe he is the true source of our midfield weakness.

      the viscious cycle of kagawas let down is due to the fact he needs to be started centrally, to allow him to have 2 wingers to move the ball to, and open the middle better. he only gets to cut in, exposing our wing, allowing opposition defences to close in reducing space. kagawa in the middle, two wingers… the space will open up HUGELEY!!! hence the turn around when moyes had some sense to put janujaz back out wide and kagawa in the middle!!! carrick had nothing to do with that game then… it was kagawa janujaz and fletcher!

      so please…. this carrick praising needs to stop!!!

    • Kagawa has not dictated play in a game i have watched (for United). He has had glimpses and i will admit, he has been played out of position. But he aint a CM. He is a number 10 and he is not going to get ahead of Mata or Rooney.

      ‘Carrick barely makes a tackle’ – this by far proves you don’t have a clue. The man is brilliant at breaking up play and distributing the ball. He had the 2nd highest pass success rate last season and the amount of chances he created from his forward passing was unbelievable. He may have not had his best season this year but apart from Rooney or Januzaj, who has.

      Read this an educate yourself: http://manutdtactics.com/?p=342

  2. Moyes has made ManUntd worse than a prostitute; anybody comes and fuck for free. Note:signing Mata alon will not solve ManUntd problems. We need more experienced players and we need to do away with under-performing players

  3. i agree with moyes that man u doesnt have w/class players.how can they score only one penalty out of five.Man u is a big club which should not rely on only 2 players.

  4. Kagawa is the key…Moyes is just a stubborn looser he only started Kagawa n hernadez bcos he knows he will be shot if he left them out again n as soon as Kagawa was subed we looked vulnerable the mid field slacked n Sunderland started pressing…carrick is good but he not as creative as Kagawa…Moyes need to stop sucking Valencia balls n bench that guy….he almost even Brough young on….this was a match Ryan highs should have played in…juanizaz should have made way for zaha….welbeck should not start every game he is not that good…bring in bebe fort god sake…..jst don’t use the same old shit face players game in game out n getting the same results what a massive error by Fergie all his hard work ruined by a poor choice of successor.

  5. Kagawa is a wonderful player just u should know how to used his talent. As a manager moyes isn’t doing that to him. Only dortmund manager know that kagawa worth

  6. I tell u i have watched kagawa where he was a dortmund player. He was fantastic and always wanted him to played for united. Becoz he has great creativity sense like scholes in midfield. He can easy create opportunity in central midfield position plus he can go forward to score

  7. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know….. We were very average last season and now we are even worse!!! The heart and football skill has been sucked out of this squad… some are not worthy (Welbeck, Young, Hernandez, Cleverley & Fabio) to start with but the rest of them can’t just turn bad overnight!!! Must be down to the coaching and tactics!!! Look how Everton are doing now Moyes is not there!!! He needs time to rebuild but not as long as he first thought…

    • Everton are only 3 points better off at the same point this season compared to last season!

      Plus they have Lukaku and Barry on loan who have been arguably their best players.

      Oh, and that Coleman fella who has been playing really well, who signed him for £60,000 again?

  8. Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they did.

    For a team bereft of ideas the bright spotlight of the penalty shootout starkly revealed the weaknesses of individuals. Technique and composure were found wanting, but the bottle required to step up was there in all the five. To their eternal shame, two bigname players hid in the shadows. Evra, a man bestowed with the honour of captaincy on so many occasions and Valencia, picked more times as an attacking option by Moyes, than any other player this season, looked away. Cowards!

  9. Kagawa is class…but still couldn’t fill scholes.s boots….give moyes a chance…as said by tim howard today “moyes doesn’t play for man utd”…”the players have to take full responsibility” mufc onelove

  10. People seem to think kagawa should be able to do a job on the left, but some players just aren’t comfortable out wide. No doubting Scholes was a great player but even he would look shite on the left wing

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