Manchester United suffered a blow in the race to finish in the top four of the Premier League following a 2-1 defeat against Sunderland this afternoon.
Man United got off to the worst possible start when Wahbi Khazri’s free-kick went past everyone and crept into the far corner of David de Gea’s net after just three minutes played. Sunderland were the better side for much of the first half but United got back on level terms after Anthony Martial followed up Juan Mata’s effort, which was saved, to chip home.
In the second half, Sunderland ramped up the pressure on United. David de Gea produced some good saves to deny the hosts but he could do nothing to stop Sunderland taking the lead once again as Martial’s attempted clearance from Lamine Kone’s header went in off the Spaniard’s back for an own goal.
United were all over the place defensively at the Stadium of Light.
Louis van Gaal’s side failed to deal with Khazri’s free-kick in the early stages of the first half and Jermain Defoe could have easily made it two for Sunderland after 10 minutes were it not for a last-ditch tackle from Chris Smalling. It set the tone as Sunderland continued to carve United open in the second period. Far too often this season, United have been exposed at the back and, although van Gaal has had to contend with injuries, it is a problem that will need solving in the summer.
Darmian looked to have been finding his feet again at United but he struggled against Sunderland until his game was brought to a premature end.
Defoe and Khazri often got the better of him on the right flank and he didn’t offer too much going forward. He eventually went off after 36 minutes with an injured shoulder in what was an afternoon to forget for him and for United.
Martial underlined his importance to United with an equaliser shortly the break. With United up against it, Martial showed supreme composure to lift the ball over Vito Mannone after the Sunderland keeper had saved Mata’s initial shot. Another game, another excellent display from the youngster. It is a shame that the rest of the side can’t follow suit.
The United captain can count himself lucky not to have been sent off.
Rooney picked up a needless booking early on in the second half for bringing down Lee Cattermole before appearing to handle the ball to block John O’Shea’s goalbound header. It was a miserable day for United but it could have been worse if lady luck wasn’t on Rooney’s side.
Van Gaal out?
You get the sense that United have made a grave mistake by sticking with van Gaal up to this point.
The Dutchman should have left in December, when a top four finish in the Premier League was still a possibility. Following the defeat against Sunderland, United are now in real danger of missing out and Ed Woodward will have to shoulder the blame if there is no Champions League football next term.