Having lost at home to West Brom the previous weekend, Manchester United walked in quite warily into the den of the Black Cats of Sunderland. Recently rid of Paulo Di Canio’s madness at the top Sunderland needed to prove to themselves as well as the fans that the biggest problem in the north east was the fiery fascist leaning Italian.
Sunderland made only two changes to the side that lost 3-1 to the Reds from Liverpool bringing on Ondrej Celustka and Valentin Roberge to replace Carlos Cuellar and Sebastian Larsson respectively. The Red Devils of Manchester though sprung a surprise giving the youngest imp – Adnan Januzaj his first Premier League start.
Caretaker boss Kevin Ball who wanted to make the job his own by taming the defending champions under the watchful eye of Sunderland’s Texan owner Ellis Short got what he wanted soon enough. his counterpart David Moyes was left wishing that he was somewhere else when Sunderland went ahead with less than 5 minutes having been registered on the clock. The manager of the defending champions was left disgusted as his team’s captain Nemanja Vidic made his second major error in two straight matches.
The opening goal from Craig Gardner highlighted everything that is wrong in the rickety United back four. Ondrej Celustka first won the ball from Januzaj after Vidic’s headed clearance, he then proceeded to send the ball into Gardner’s path. Gardner then out-muscled Cleverly to poke the the ball into the path of the attacking Giaccherini. The winger then easily bypassed Evra’s rather staid challenge before lashing a cross to the left which was blockaded by Jones.
The ball rolled to Vidic who just like he had done at Donetsk messed it up royally. His rather lame touch pushed the ball into the path of the onrushing Gardner who lashed it tinto the bottom left corner of the goal shephered by a despairing De Gea.
De Gea was called into action once again in the 33rd minute in what was probably the moment of the half. Sunderland had been lashing the United defence for quite some time while keeping United’s twosome at the front as far away as possible. They pushed forward yet again in the 33rd minute and Adam Johnson‘s perfect cross was met by an equally perfect header from Giaccherini.
De Gea who had been caught out of position by the cross, made the save of his career as he dove to his right and pushed a ball that seemed to be heading into the back of his goal around the post for a corner. The save was what probably saved the game for United who otherwise would have headed into the break 2-0 behind.
The barrage during the break must have been quite a forceful one as United came out of the tunnel looking to make amends right from the start. However, the new imp Januzaj almost messed it up in the 47th minute after he brought the ball into the Sunderland box and then tumbled onto the grass picking up a yellow for his troubles.
Michael Carrick though had started to take over the controls of the midfield as United started to really push against a fast fading Sunderland. Januzaj then more than made up for his mistake in the 55th minute when he linked up with Evra to bring United back into the game. First he made space and crossed the ball to Evra on the left lifting it over Sunderland’s skipper Cattermole. He then easily slipped past Ki Su’Yueng to hammer home the eualiser with his weaker right foot.
Five minutes later, the youngster hammered home a goal that even Robin Van Persie would be proud of. Nani‘s cross had been blocked by John O’Shea. Unfortunately for the Black Cats his clearance didn’t help them at all as the ball was volleyed past Westwood courtesy the left boot of Januzaj.
However, it was not all plain sailing for United as Vidic had to make up for his earlier bout of idiocy by clearing out a rather dangerous cross from Larrson in the 82nd minute. Adding to the drama was another insane save from De Gea in added time.
Moyes sure was saved yet another nightmare weekend by the brilliance of an 18 year old kid from Belgium. It has given him a smokescreen behind which he can hide his defensive problems, atleast for the time being. He can only hope that as the league heads into the international break, that his defence starts to function more like a unit than a bunch of squabbling brats