Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland: Another day in the office for the League Leaders
It was another day in the office for SAF as Manchester United beat Sunderland with utter ease. The Red Devils continued their good form after their derby win with a comprehensive 3-1 victory. Of particular note was the return of Vidic who made a premier league return after being substituted in for Ferdinand in the second half of the match. The warm applause that he received on coming lit up the whole Old Trafford.
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): De Gea – Jones, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra – Valencia, Carrick, Cleverly, Young – Rooney – Van Persie
Manchester United fielded a similar line-up to the one they played with against City with Phil Jones being the only exception in place of the usual right back, Rafael.
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet – Gardner, O’Shea, Cuellar, Rose – Johnson, Larrson, Colback, McClean – Sessegnon – Fletcher
In Sunderland’s 4-4-1-1 shape, there is a lot of space between the lines when their centre-backs don’t push up and play closer to the central-midfielders. Steven Fletcher is their only shining light up on the striking front recently.
THE RED DEVILS BREATHE FIRE
The first half began almost as if Manchester United were still playing against City, their intensity not having lessened even the slightest in the face of opponents of lower stature.
The movement was precise, passing crisp and the finishing was absolutely lethal. The first goal was a direct result of Ashley Young’s brilliant turn combined with Van Persie’s cool finish.
The second goal was even better crafted with a brilliant exchange from Carrick to Cleverly who coolly dispatched the ball with a curling shot away from the keeper into the far post.
The game went on with United having a lot of possession with many chances throughout. Carrick and Cleverly were brilliant in the midfield playing intelligent passes and combining well with Rooney who dropped into the midfield-cum-forward role that he is used to now.
United extended the lead in second half with Rooney adding his name to the score sheet after poking his toe onto Van Persie’s low cross.
SUNDERLAND GETS THE CHANCE
Carrick was taken off at half time for Scholes and the midfield maestro looked slightly off-pace in the match, not playing at his best. Carrick’s absence affected the game quite a bit underlining his importance in the team. His absence loosened up United’s control over the match giving Sunderland room for movement.
De Gea was far busier in the second half compared to the first where he was a virtual spectator. Nothing world class was required but he displayed good hands and stayed sharp. Most important was his decisiveness on aerial balls floated into the box lending him credibility as United’s No. 1.
Sunderland soon pulled a goal back. De Gea saved well during a corner skirmish and parried the ball away from danger. However a stripy shirt was not closed down and a return cross found Campbell who was completely unmarked at the back post.
Cleverly was soon subbed off for United veteran Giggs who has been used as a midfielder far more than as a winger as of late. With an aged pair of Giggs and Scholes in the mid, Sunderland gave it their all to bring about an unlikely comeback. However United had done just about enough to comfortably hold onto their two goal lead.
UNITED START WITH A LEAD FOR ONCE
The ‘Comeback Kings’ did not have to play for that name for once, as they scored before their opponents and were 2-0 up in the first half. The Red Devils were simply sublime in the opening 30 minutes, almost sounding out their challenge to the rest of the league to catch up to them.
Ashley Young in particular has finally regained the sort of form that Aston Villa fans revered him for. His effectiveness down the left flank removed United’s predictability of their choice side of attack. Valencia was even more effective as a result with Phil Jones providing good cover for him.
Phil Jones and Vidic coming back from injury is welcome news for United fans as their defence has come under scrutiny often this season.
All in all, it was just another day in the office for the league leaders setting the pace other teams and stifling the noise of their ‘Screaming Neighbours’.