No bad luck despite the presence of the Black CatsBy: Ian | December 16th, 2012
Following last week’s epic derby, the visit of Sunderland was always going to be a bit flat by comparison. However, to not build on that City win would have been criminal, so avoiding complacency yesterday agains the Black Cats was perhaps the main aim. On paper it looked like a good game in which to increase goal difference, which for all Utd’s turbo-charged firepower, hasn’t increased that rapidly due to defensive issues. The game saw the return of Nemanja Vidic , which may help alleviate a few of these issues if he keeps fit. Anyway, on with the game.
Evans was out, so Smalling was in and the fit-again Phil Jones provided a rare rest-period for Utd’s very own Duracell bunny, Rafael. Ashley Young seems to be picking up a bit of form, nothing of his early Utd career standard (Arsenal: 8-2 game for example), but something at least. He achieved the game’s first corner as Utd pressed early following intent from Valencia and Jones down the right. Keeper Mignolet, connected with Utd on the rumour pages this week, was immediately the busiest player, with Utd perfectly happy to keep it that way.
Shortly after, some alarmingly poor Sunderland defending (rumour are they are using Utd’s new Christmas training DVD as a guideline) left Patrice Evra unmarked, in the box, following a corner. The Frenchman then put in a reminder, if it were necessary, that a late career move to the forward positions is not on the cards. The shot was saved well… by Geoff in Row Q. Evra looked pretty startled at that, but if he scored three goals in a season the world would really end this year after all. Putting aside that disappointment, Utd engineered another breakthrough. RVP fed Young out wide, tightly marked. The first attempt was blocked, but an excellent turn created the space for the ball to be put in the box. O’Shea, former Utd I’m sure you remember (nutmegged Luis Figo once this chap), made a hash of the clearance, which Van Persie was only too happy to sweep home. 1-0 on 16 minutes.
The Dutchman then had a header narrowly saved before a swift and beautiful second. Cleverley received the ball on the flank, tucked it inside to Carrick, who provided a perfect return pass. Cleverley applied the same curling technique he used for that did-he-mean-it goal against Newcastle, which is very pleasant on the eye. Anyway, he meant this one, and the sublime finish provided him with his first league goal at Old Trafford. Well done, Tom. 2-0 (19 mins). Rooney then missed goal three as he volleyed wide, the first sign that Utd’s shooting boots were not that highly polished today. You haven’t mentioned Sunderland, I hear you cry. Quite right, their role in the first half was limited mainly to defending or rather watching Utd miss, but in the interest of balance, McClean had a shot saved by De Gea. There.
Carrick, the main driving force of the first half, left the fray at half time, to be replaced by old maestro, Paul Scholes. Surprisingly, but not entirely Scholes’ fault I would say, this let a bit of Utd’s control slip and whilst they still had the majority of play, Sunderland did press more after this, particularly in a move featuring Gardner with Sessegnon looking for the rebound finish. The only way was up for them, I guess. However, Rooney hit the bar and Young sent the ball to the guy opposite Geoff at the other end (see earlier if confused). Van Persie then lobbed wide after being through, with Utd frustratingly unable to find the net again. However, Van Persie did rectify this as a move involving Young on the edge of the box saw the Flying Dutchman fly past a defender and Titus Bramble (whatever he was doing, it wasn’t defending). The cross, kept low, was met by Rooney for a tap-in third. Game over on the hour.
Vidic then made his return, replacing Ferdinand, but he was unable to stop Sunderland ruining the clean sheet opportunity four minutes later. Utd, set on amble mode by now, let Sessegnon retain the ball without pressure outside the box. The cross was met on the head of another Utd old boy, Frazier Campbell. 3-1, but to be fair De Gea kept it at that. The win ensured Utd go into Christmas at the top of the tree, with a six point difference and an advantage of 1 in goal difference. The end of the month features a glut of games, with Utd facing Swansea, poorly-performing Newcastle, high-flying WBA, and Wigan on New Years Day. There are challenges there, but for now everything looks good heading into the New Year.
Any comments below, anything relevant is appreciated!