Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United
Man Utd XI (w/ratings): De Gea 7, Rafael 6, Smalling 7, Vidic 6, Buttner 8, Valencia 7, Anderson 5, Carrick 8, Young 5, Kagawa 7, van Persie 7. Subs: Evans 6, Cleverley 6, Welbeck 6.
The final day of last season saw Manchester United lose the title after the final whistle in this fixture when news broke through of an injury time winner by Sergio Aguero ensuring the league title went to the blue half of Manchester. This season Manchester United returned to the scene with a purpose; not revenge over the Sunderland fans who took joy in Manchester United’s failings, but response. An ongoing response to the events that took place that day.
A win over Sunderland in this fixture this season meant Manchester United kept their 15 point lead over Manchester City heading into the Manchester derby with a record breaking 25 wins after 30 games. And that win was secured by a Robin van Persie strike via 2 deflections, the man who was bought with the intention of winning back the Premier League gong and giving the club our 20th league title.
The game itself was a tale of 2 halves, continuing the trend set from the FA cup match-up against Chelsea before the international break. The first half saw some fabulous football giving United a few chances to kill the game off, the second was much more matched, though Sunderland still failed to really threaten the Manchester United goal and the result was a 6th consecutive Premier League clean sheet for the club and for David De Gea. The run of over 10 hours without conceding a goal is Manchester United’s longest since Edwin Van Der Sar’s record of 1311 minutes set in 2008-09 season.
There were a few good performers on the day. Alex Buttner’s performance was a stand out. Questions marks have been raised whether he is good enough to play for Manchester United but performances like this will do his cause no harm. He was both astute defending and a threat going forward. On the left he outshone winger Ashley Young who put in another disappointing display. From left back, Buttner provided a much greater attacking threat than the left winger.
Michael Carrick put in yet another fantastic display at central midfield. He showed again why he is now the first name on the team sheet. On international duty Antonio Valencia made 3 assists in a single game and also put a left footed volley into the back of the net. His performance at the Stadium of Light was just as encouraging as he no longer looked afraid to take players on. It was more towards the sorts of performances we were accustomed to seeing last season, though still a way off those heights.
Nevertheless, another vital win was secured. Another scalp taken in the quest for title number 20. From the remaining 8 games, Manchester United only need another 10 points to guarantee the trophy will be heading home. A big step to that could be taken next Monday when we host our city rivals.