United moved slowly up the gears but ultimately were worthy winners in a game in which the introduction of Adnan Januzaj at half-time and a fine piece of skill from Rademal Falcao, not to mention a brace from Wayne Rooney, saw off Sunderland’s resistance. With the visitors forced to see out the game with ten men, this was ultimately a comfortable afternoon’s work for the Reds.
It hadn’t always promised to be that way. Although United enjoyed the bulk of possession in the early stages, they looked vulnerable in defence and there was an early scare when Wickham exploited a huge gap in United’s central defence to force a fine save from De Gea. There were other nervous moments, leading to a tendency to be cautious in other areas of the pitch, and agitation was building in the Old Trafford crowd before the Reds began to step it up, creating their first meaningful chance in the 25th minute, Young’s shot being deflected onto the bar by the foot of O’Shea.
There was clearly more of a balance to this United team, however, with Young and Di Maria offering a much sought after width and Herrera again busy and resourceful in midfield. The Reds were controlling the game with Sunderland increasingly forced to defend deep as the half wore on. Not that chances were especially plentiful at that stage. A foul on Herrera that drew a free kick from Rooney that was tipped over by Pantilimon and, from the resulting corner, Rojo got a shot in that Larsson was forced to clear off the line. Just before half-time, a break from Di Maria came to nothing when the Argentinian opted to try to put in Falcao, his pass easily snuffed out by the Sunderland defence with Young unmarked to his left.
Januzaj replaced Di Maria at half-time and United were progressively looking more comfortable before taking the lead in slightly bizarre fashion. With Fellaini being readied to replace Falcao, the Colombian executed a sublime touch and turn in the area before being brought down by a bamboozled O’Shea. It was a clear red card offence but the referee showed it to Wes Brown and stuck with his decision even after consultation with his assistant. After the confusion, Rooney made no mistake from the spot to give the Reds a belated but deserved lead.
Despite Falcao’s involvement in the goal, Van Gaal still went ahead with the decision to substitute him, although sections of the crowd made their disapproval clear. Januzaj and Rooney both tested Pantilimon with long-range shots and the young Belgian, clearly enjoying a return to the wide role he excelled in last season, was causing enormous problems for Sunderland down the right. Fittingly, it was he who provided the cross for Rooney to head home from close range to double the lead and secure United’s win.
Herrera had the ball in the net in stoppage time but the goal was flagged offside. The game was over by that point anyway and, although there will be some who bemoan the length of time it took United to get into their stride, it’s worth putting this performance and result into perspective via comparison with the two woeful home performances against Sunderland last season. Job done and, on this occasion, very much a clear victory for the radical concept of fielding players in their preferred positions.
3 replies on “Match Report: Manchester United 2-0 Sunderland”
An improved performance from United, mainly thanks to the use of real wingers in their proper roles. Even so, it was hardly inspirational stuff but I suppose a win is a win. Whether performances like this will get us into the Champions League is problematic.
The decision to still go ahead with the substitution of Falcao with Fellaini after the first goal, is typical of the cautious, risk-avoiding approach shown by van Gaal all season.
At 0-0 and 60 minutes gone, Fellaini was being lined for his ‘plan B’ role, predictable enough. However the penalty incident was the game changer, ‘plan ‘B’ wasn’t necessary.
Falcao should have been kept on. His confidence was up after winning the penalty, and more importantly Wes Brown, Falcao’s marker, who had done a good containing job on him until the penalty, had been sent off and Sunderland were down to to ten players. Perfect opportunity for Falcao (and United) to take advantage.
Instead, on came Fellaini who in the main, proceeded to lumber around in the attacking midfield area. He really did not take up Falcao’s advanced position nor did he look to exploit the gap left by the departed Brown. Even replacing Falcao with Wilson, whose pace would have been ideal, would have been a positive decision, extending the kid’s experience.
Sunderland were on their knees and could have been put to the sword but that approach doesn’t fit van Gaal’s philosophy. His conservative, ‘belts and braces’ attitude meant that there would be no forcing open of any floodgates.
januzaj was better today because he did not wait for the defender to come to him. when he got the ball, he quickly commenced the attack. no lolly gagging.
smallings movement is getting better after every game.
still evans is a disaster waiting to happen
young is more dangerous now.
good job on the central midfield pairing of herrera and blind.
di maria got better as the game wore on but got substituted anyway.
Januzaj’s introduction at half time made all the difference. United were way too pedestrian first half, but the youngster made an immediate impact winning 2 corners with the first 4 minutes of the second half. His willingness to run at the defence made the difference, as did his getting to the goal line & crossing.
Falcao is still a big doubt for me. He continually comes short and then gets muscled off the ball. Shearer called it right on MOTD in saying that he needs to be turning defenders and running into space. Time is running out for the Colombian.
Good performances from Blind, Herrera, and Rooney, and I thought Smalling put in an excellent shift.
We need to reproduce the second half performance for the full 90 minutes against Newcastle to get a result.