What We Learned: Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland

An unpleasant return to the Moyes era

Perhaps it was folly to suggest that we could chalk off the last nine months of football to a bad dream just because a different man now leads the side. The second half against Norwich, in which we ripped into a team starting relegation in the face, appears to have been a blip, if yesterday’s performance was anything to go by. United were outfought by Sunderland and failed to make the most of the possession they’d been granted. Not that this club’s limited central midfield and the woeful distribution of our wingers have suddenly improved due to this sudden change in management, but one would have assumed that Ryan Giggs had spent enough time watching United this season to know what worked and what didn’t; whatever we ended up with yesterday simply did not.


Van Gaal must consider who he jettisons

If, as is widely expected, Louis van Gaal takes over as permanent manager of Manchester United in the coming days, then he will inherit a squad that is in no way as bad as performances at Old Trafford and a thoroughly indifferent league position would suggest. But if Saturday’s match proved one thing beyond all doubt, it’s that the Dutchman, or any newcomer has to take a long, hard look at this group of players and be ruthless in regards to who is allowed to stay.

This defeat was a perfect example of why United’s midfield needs such attention; both Nani and Ashley Young were guilty of frequently terrible delivery, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher were sloppy and limited, despite their tenacity and the aged centre-back pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand could not cope with Sunderland’s rare attacks. David De Gea needs more protection, and the club’s strikers need better service, and with so many consistently uninspiring performers within the squad this season, the next Manchester United manager may need to be particularly brutal in terms of who he decides to retain.

The players didn’t fancy the Europa League

Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham meant that a United victory would leave qualification for the Europa League in their hands, thanks to a vastly superior goal difference over Tim Sherwood’s side. But as has been the case all season, United ignored the potential prize and settled for a mediocre performance. Giggs noted in the first few days of his reign that he felt it was important to maintain European football at Old Trafford, but that doesn’t necessarily appear to be a sentiment shared by his charges.


In some ways, United are simply better steering clear of the competition; qualification begins in July, not long after an assuredly sweltering World Cup in Brazil, and the thought of beginning competitive football so early when United’s primary objective next term is a return to the top four would be detrimental. But that does not stop this most recent failure to seize an opportunity to compete for silverware from being disappointing, and it surely won’t look particularly good to any incoming employees, either.

Urgency is essential for success next season

That’s not a certainty, of course; Jose Mourinho may yet go on to prove that a pointed counter-attacking approach can reap dividends should Chelsea end the season on top of the league table, but all signs point towards the club’s next manager bringing a return to fluent, attacking football. That, in itself is enough to ease the sting of another frustrating defeat, but it won’t be as easy as simply implementing a new system that empowers the club’s attacking weapons; the club’s new leader has to remind Manchester United how to play football with an urgency when it’s required.


Again, we saw signs of a step up in possession, but not in intensity as the game wore on with United losing at home. Given how poor our league record is at home, you would be forgiven for expecting some show of pride and a sense of urgency on display, but all too often, United have looked defeated long before the final whistle. It has taken a worryingly short time for the never-say-die attitude that Sir Alex Ferguson demanded of his side to be discarded, and given how many times it could have saved the club this season, it has to be reinstated, and quickly.


  1. This squad is calling out for a massive cull, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Fergie decided he was the Guvnor, and not Paul Ince.

    We are in the same boat with Rooney, he thinks he is bigger than the cub, and the fact he has been given the Captains armband at times in the Moyes era show that he is dictating to the club, not the other way round, it’s time to say “thanks Wayne”, I firmly believe he is stifling out attacking play, we all admire him for his work rate, but when he drops into midfield, we are left without a striker.

    He also stifles Kagawa and Mata, into roles they are not familiar with.

    Whoever comes in has to have this clear out, the game against Sunderland was an example of a team playing out the last couple of games, with nothing to play for, and as United fans, we are not used to seeing that, ( unless you are over 26 yrs old).

    I don’t think van Gaal is the man, neither is Ryan Giggs, but who exactly can take this team back to the top in a season is like looking for that golden needle in hay stack.

    Jack Rouse

  2. The usual sour grapes from the ‘entitled.’ Better get used to mediocrity pal, I think you’ve years of it to come. And the nation will sit back and enjoy it.

  3. There is a school of thought which says that this isn’t a bad team, after all it won last season’s Premiership by eleven points, and has been supplemented by the addition of Mata, Januzaj and Felliaini; that it has fallen rapidly from grace owing to the lamentable managerial performance of Moyes and only needs a bit of fresh blood in centre-midfield and in the back line, and normal service will be resumed.

    Unfortunately, this team has deteriorated so rapidly this season that it doesn’t just need a bit of fresh blood anymore, it needs some major surgery. What it needs most of all is a heart (and soul) transplant. The fighting, never-say-die qualities that epitomised Ferguson’s teams have completely disappeared from this collection of players. Fortress Old Trafford has become the House of Cards.The last time United lost seven home league games in a season they were relegated.

    The current crop of players who have been around for five to ten years have tasted success, and we have shared it with them, but they are no longer up for the challenge. The personality and authority of Ferguson kept the players lean, mean and hungry. Now that he has gone, so many of them have fattened up and slowed up, alarmingly quickly.

    Whover is the new manager let’s hope he can use the scalpel expertly and effectively. If it is to be Van Gaal, he has a reputation of giving youth a chance, which is to be applauded. One of the more disappointing aspects of this season (amongst many) is that even though the entire squad has been underperforming, Januzaj is the only youngster to appear in a first team game this season. That is not the United way.

  4. I agree the united way is given youth some chance I still belive players like lingard can perform better than Ashley young or nani on the wings, l I no see no reason living carrick on the when his only business on the pitch is to confuse is own players,putting these players on the bench would have been a signal of intent.And to see giggs continue the same mistake Moyes made was absolutely shocking why on earth will you select players like Ferdinand vidic that no longer have futures wif the club and living Evans smalling on the bench

  5. Cos giggs were not cut to be a top manager, neither does roy keane,ole,mark hughes, steve bruce and the guvnor.. He should retire and enjoy his legend status.. Before lvg humiliates him by not giving him a new contract..

  6. what has killed utd this season is loyalty to under-performing players and stupidity in player use.

    jones smalling evans should have been the core of utds defence this season. rio and vidic are not up to scratch! gary neville was a true legend because he hung up his boots mid-season because he knew he no longer had consistent top performances in him. rio and vidic… respect for wanting to continue, but they cant do it on a regular basis! the pace of the premiership is now too much for them.

    the core of midfield has been the biggest shambles. fletcher provides some fresh air every now and then, but michael carrick has been the most horrific player all season. he is completely incapable of dominating the midfield. granted he has been the most consistent player…. but consistently useless! 1 goal, 0 assists and cost us at least 3 goals. for a defensive midfielder he is always chasing player runs, and spends most his time just picking up lose balls.

    cleverley… hard to say… he hsnt been given much of a chance, but with all the negative pressure on him it makes it so much harder for him to now step up. i believe he has unfairly been the scapegoat for what is mainly carricks lack of quality. we lose with cleverley on the pitch everyone blames him for lack of midfield contribution… we lose with carrick on the pitch when he has done absolutely nothing… no comment.

    rooney… and absolute fool… says he wants to leave cus hes a striekr and being forced to play in midfield which he apparently doesnt want to do (and actually rightfully so, hes a much better striker) keeps being played as this stupid number 10 role

    kagawa… how often does it have to be said this guy is supposed to be played centrally!!???? the title of a great player should not be dependent on being able to play a number of roles! would you play a natural winger in the middle??? NO so why should a natural central player be expected to suddenly be amazingly effective out wide???

    mata is great, but he plays better when kagawa is there. many believe the two are too alike, but they arent. they actually compliment each other!

    rooney & RVP… they have both been overused and welbeck and hernandez completely neglected

    tactics have been completely wrong all season. everyone lines up… far to infrequently is the cut back to the edge of the box an option cus nobody there… players to not utilise open spaces. the utd way has for me not just been shift to the wing and cross it in… but spreading play. opening space and using the wings to force a break in the defense.

    the utd players stay with the defenders, they dont force the defenders to chase them and thus create a space for someone else, the off the ball movement is amateurish at best. vs sunderl;and we conceded a goal to a player being completely open around the penalty spot… nobody near him. NOT ONCE did utd utilise that sort of area which was there for EVERY SINGLE ATTACK! they line up with the back four and make defending childs play!

    2 holding midfielders for utd is completely unnecessary, and if carrick features so heavily next season we are doomed!

    substitutions heavy rotation… that is something that was available for us this season. we could have maintained every element of surprise and remained incredibly strong and fresh

  7. We do need a major overhaul and he has to be ruthless. As soon as the final whistle goes at Southampton next week, we need to be shipping players out of the club.

    Player out: Vidic (free), Ferdinand (free), Buttner (£2m), Fellaini (20m), Fletcher (free), Anderson (£3m), Young (£6m), Nani (£10m), Bebe (£5m), Macheda (free), Hernandez (£14m), Kagawa (£15m) and perhaps shocking for some…..Rooney (£35m)!! Total income would be £75 million.

    I would keep Cleverley because I actually still believe he can improve under Van Gaal. Valencia is a solid soldier who can do a job for another season at least. We will obviously have Januzaj and then we should promote Powell and Lingard to the first team squad. I would also like Zaha to get another chance under Van Gaal. The boy has had a terrible season but he does have talent and pace to burn. A manager like Van Gaal is famed for working and improving young players, and he could potentially turn Zaha into a polish diamond. We then need to invest heavily and purchase new midfielder players this summer.

    At the back we need to keep Rafeal and get a coach to work on his defensive abilities. We also have the talented Saidy Janko who is one of our more promising youngsters, and so he will interest Van Gaal. We should keep Jones, Smalling and Evans because they can all still improve their games and become better defenders. I can see Buttner staying as a back up left back for another season with Van Gaal arriving. We need a new centre back and left back in the summer.

    In attack we need to add more intelligence and pace. Van Gaal like’s to play 4-3-3 formation, or possibly a 4-2-3-1 formation. However you look at it there is a problem with Rooney because he doesn’t fit these systems. Van Gaal will prefer Van Persie as he main striker, and most likely will go with Mata as his number 10 playmaker. Van Gaal will want 3 of these types of players, so it will be an issue for Rooney and Kagawa. We should make the hard decision and sell the pair. Rooney was linked with PSG gor £35 million and we should snatch their hands off for that offer.

    In my dreams we would give Bayern Munich £70 million for Muller (£40m) and Kroos (£30m), £55 million to AS Roma for Strootman (£30m) and Benatia (£25m), £40 million for Reus, £27 million for Shaw and £7 million for Siem De Jong. The total would be £199 million of what people are saying is a £200 million budget.

    …………………..De Gea……………….




    ………………..Van Persie…………….

    Squad: Lindergaard, Amos, Janko, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Powell, Lingard, Zaha, Januzaj, De Jong, Webeck, Wilson

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