5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland


By Chris Mortlock

1. From one headache to another…

…Albeit a much easier one to handle. With Nemanja Vidic returning to first-team action on Saturday, the boss is now spoilt for choice when choosing his central defensive partnership.

The question is though: What is United’s best central-defensive pairing? A fully-fit Nemanja Vidic will always start – his experience and leadership will be vital if we’re to regain the Premier League title. Who partners him though? His partnership with Ferdinand (circa 2008) was one of the best, if not the best United has ever seen, but has their time as a pair been and gone? It would certainly be unfair to leave Jonny Evans out of the first XI when fit – he has been immense during Vidic’s absence. And what about Smalling? What about Jones? Both have grown as players since coming to United and both could quite easily partner Vidic at the back.

Ask five different United fans and they’d probably give you five different pairings, but as long as Sir Alex gets his pairing right, that’s all that matters.

2. Revenge is sweet

“When the fixtures come out I look for three games – City, Liverpool and Everton,” Rooney wrote in his recent book. “This time I checked the Sunderland game. If there is one team that I want to beat this season it will be Sunderland.”

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Revenge evokes anger and unprofessionalism, some might say, which is probably the reason why managers talk it down. But make no mistake about it, Sir Alex and the players wanted to annihilate Sunderland on Saturday.

The travelling Sunderland fans carried on from where they left off in May – by chanting and cheering for another club. Chants about Agüero’s winner against QPR bellowed from the south-east quadrant of Old Trafford. Oh, how it must have felt to be a Sunderland player on that pitch. Three goals down and your fans are cheering about another club. I’m surprised some of them even saw their side’s consolation, they had their back to the pitch and were jumping up and down. Oh wait, of course, they were attempting ‘the Poznan’. How original.

3. Van Persie + Rooney = Win

12 games, 12 wins. That’s the statistic you see when Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney start together. Questions were asked pre-season about the pair: Would Rooney’s game be affected by the arrival of the Dutchman? Could Van Persie actually keep Rooney out the team? We’re only half-way through the season but those questions have already been answered. Both have been brilliant thus far. Simply brilliant. And we’ve still not reached our peak, have we?

4. We seem to only reach top gear in spurts

It’s something that’s really starting to baffle United fans. It seems as though we can only reach top gear for a limited amount of time. We’ve played some real scintillating stuff this season, but usually only for, at most, forty-five minutes. The first halves against both Newcastle and Chelsea, and the second half against Spurs spring to mind. Other than that, we’ve relied heavily on our strike-force and substitute bench to spare our blushes in a number of games. The first half against Sunderland was similar to the aforementioned: we played some really good stuff… in the first half. Yes, you could say we played brilliantly for an hour, but you get my point.

We could have quite easily been five-up had it not been for a lack of incisiveness in the first half. Sunderland were never really in the game, so I guess our players can be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas somewhat, after Rooney stabbed home the third. I can’t help but think, though, we could have really done our goal difference a favour, couldn’t we? They were there for the taking – what with make-shift full-backs and a central-defence that included Titus Bramble – they really were.

5. Michael Carrick always has and always will divide opinion 

“He doesn’t score enough”,

“He only passes sidewards”

Are some of the things I hear on a weekly basis. And it has been like this for a number of years now. When are people going to realise how important he is for us? Of course, everyone has their own opinion and they’re entitled to it, but seriously, football has moved on. Not every team needs ‘a Roy Keane’. A defensive midfielder no longer has to get stuck in and win every aerial ball.

And for the people who say he only passes sideways: have a guess who has made the most forward passes in Premier League this season?

We fell apart yesterday in the second half and who went off at half-time? Coincidence? Maybe. Like I mentioned before, the players took their foot off the gas which allowed Sunderland to pull a goal back. But in terms of fluency, we were really poor without Carrick in the heart of midfield. For me, he’s one of the first names on the team-sheet, his work goes largely unnoticed but it enables the Rooneys and the Van Persies to play with a certain amount of fluidity and freedom.

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  1. Avatar

    Good article, Chris.

    At some point this season I think Evans and Smalling will become first choice centre back partnership for the bigger games. Smalling’s potential is scary – he was magnificent against City – his second half showing is one of the better sub performances I’ve seen. Evans has continued his good form from last season and deserves his place in the starting XI based on his displays. Vidic has one or two question marks against his name having missed a lot of football. I’m not certain he will discover top form – we won’t know the answer until he’s a had an extended run in the team. I think age and injuries are slowly starting to catch up on Ferdinand.

    Spot on about Carrick – he doesn’t receive the credit he deserves. Big fan of his.

  2. Avatar

    Great article, Evans now is first choice – what an amazing turnaround that is after the 1-6 debacle. Carrick with legs next to him is a top player, when you have Giggs or scholes alongside then it is a recipe for disaster as you have a midfield that can’t run ( see Spurs at home first half) When we were annihalated, also watch a similar pattern on Saturday last 20 mins when Giggs comes on for Cleverley, we get overrun & Fergie can’t see this ? Time for Giggs to do the honourable thing as I know Scholes will soon enough.One final thing we have learned is we need a keeper,Begovic would be great as he is 6ft 5 & De Gea could learn from this as he is still very young & learning.

  3. Avatar

    Thought de Gea was excellent again. He made several saves and confidently dealt with crosses. I personally don’t think we need Begovic. de Gea’s been pretty good this calender year and his potential is scary.

  4. Avatar
    Chris Mortlock on

    Cheers, lads.

    Bob, I agree – eventually, I can see an Evans-Smalling partnership. They’ve both got so much potential and have both come on leaps and bounds. Playing Scholes and Giggs in a central-midfield two is suicide.

    I don’t think we need a ‘keeper. De Gea is no.1, Lindegaard is his understudy. I am confident De Gea will go on to become the best in the world within the next 10 years.

  5. Avatar

    Great stuff pal. Few talking points but the main one for me is De Gea. He’s learning obviously as he’s only 21 but he’s got all the commodities to be a top keeper and now with a fit and full defence in front of him, he will get better protection and hopefully develop further in the second half of the season

  6. Avatar

    i think the first 30mins was amazin…..giggs and scholesy should do the honourable thing and perhaps upgrade d youngsters…meanwhile de gea is an excellent keeper buh he makes more save with his feets than hands

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