SUNDERLAND VS MANCHESTER UNITED
The sun was out in the north east of England and United rolled into town hoping to do three things:-
1. Extend their lead at the top of the table
2. Put city supporting Sunderland on their way to the Championship, and
3. Keep one eye the trip to Chelsea
In: Rafael, Kagawa, Carrick, Valencia
Out: Ferdinand, Giggs, Rooney, Welbeck
The game started in a tame manner as befits these early kick offs but it was United that appeared the more comfortable as they enjoyed a great deal of possession in the midfield.
This was helped by United’s 4-1-4-1 set up. There were three protagonists to this formation; Carrick, Anderson and Kagawa.
Carrick sat in front of Vidic and Smalling but was given time to play the ball from the back, rarely troubled by Sunderland’s stand off approach with loanee Danny Graham being asked to do too much…easily bypassed. Carrick was unflappable his defending when required. Sunderland tried to address this later in the game but without any effect.
With this space Anderson was allowed to create dynamism in the middle, the transitions were frequent and effective.
They were effective because Kagawa San was pitched up in the false 9 zone and was instrumental when receiving the ball. He rarely moved more than ten yards as everyone else moved around him; Young inward, van Persie horizontally, Valencia vertically and Buttner from deep.
It must be said that Sunderland were poor, really poor. They offered little and despite sitting deep United were able to play round them. They did however, have their winger McClean sat behind Rafael but because they were unadventurous and gave United time to sit back we’re unable to utilise this outlet.
Sunderland did attempt to reduce Kagawa’s threat by dropping N’Diaye but honestly, it made no difference.
The pressure told as United were given time in the build up leading to a goal from van Persie. It was no more than deserved, in fact they should of had more as the half time whistle went.
It was inevitable to see Sunderland start the second half with more impetus in their play. They employed a higher line starting with the defence and that same defence were often seen as a three with Bardsley pushing the highest of the full backs. This wasn’t a surprise as the space between Buttner and Young was quite significant. This was emphasised by the compactness shown on the other wing between Smalling (now out wide due to Evans coming on) and Valencia; Rose was subdued into non existence.
Rather than level out, the game regulated in that a Sunderland team turned up and gave United a game. United decided to withdraw and sit back without ever looking concerned; Carrick was accompanied by Anderson more often.
Buttner was the real spark for United as he cavorted up the left flank and in the channel. He was troubled for his efforts by a challenge from former red Bardsley.
Ferguson made a change with Kagawa coming off for Welbeck and this borough about a change in United’s formation. Van Persie was often the lone front man but with the ‘busier’ Welbeck on, van Persie had more options around him, for both short and longer passes.
The game followed this pattern, Sunderland attacked, messed it up, United broke out, should have done more with it but they were never forced into it.
Sunderland tried to force their way back into it with the introduction of Larsson to whip crosses in for the arm waving idiot Graham (they support city so why will they react to your encouragement?). This was at the expense of Johnson, which was surprising (it’s true that City ruins your career).
Towards the end Anderson came off for Cleverly who brought more composure to the area in front of the defence as United were often seen playing neat triangles to work it out wide (usually to the left).
There was no doubt that United could have played better but the truth is, is that they didn’t need to. The fact that Carrick handled things superbly on his own and that Sunderland couldn’t find the obvious out ball is confirmation to those city loving Muppets that their team is in danger.
What this game showed for United is that they have a squad capable of handling two games in two days, but is it capable of winning two? Only time will tell.