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Reactions to victory over Sunderland

Match reactions1. West Brom was a must win and we lost it. “Must win” doesn’t really do justice to how important it was to beat Sunderland yesterday. Having gone a goal down so early on, you had to fear that things were about to go from bad to worse for United. Sunderland, the worst performing team in the Premier League this season, were all over us in the first half, massively raising their game, but we were unable to counteract that. Thankfully we came back in the second half and played more like you would expect of the champions. These are nervy times for United fans but we got the result we needed in the end.

2. Having looked one of the most dangerous players on the pitch in his substitute appearances this season, it was great to see Adnan Januzaj rewarded with a start. He plays with a confidence that the likes of Ashley Young can only dream of. He’s always itching for the ball and whenever he gets it is looking for the most direct route the goal, running at defenders and keen to get a shot away whenever he can. He came close to scoring in the first half, after creating a bit of space for himself, and when the 2nd half kicked off looked like the player most likely to score for us. Ten minutes in to the half he played the ball out wide to Patrice Evra who rolled the ball back in to the box for Januzaj to sidefoot in to the net. The accuracy and power, as well as the movement to get in to the area unmarked, was brilliant. But this goal was nothing compared to his second. Nani lifted the ball in to the box and John O’Shea attempted to head clear. The ball fell perfectly to Januzaj who struck it across the face of goal on the volley. The technique required just to get an attempt like that on target is special enough, let alone to score. We’ve got a real player on our hands and you’d hope he is the first name on the teamsheet from now on. Credit has to go to David Moyes for picking him too, as giving a first start to an 18-year-old for an away game on the back of two defeats isn’t an easy decision to make. Januzaj did more than enough to justify Moyes’ faith in him though.

3. Whilst it was Januzaj who won us the game, it was David de Gea who stopped us from losing it, after pulling off a fantastic stop in the first half. Our goalie is flavour of the month at the moment, with Peter Schmeichel claiming this was one of the best saves he’s ever seen in the Premier League. When you compare it to all the stick that Joe Hart is getting at the moment, we’ve seen a complete role reversal, with De Gea finally getting the plaudits he deserves. I also enjoyed his clearance with his feet in mid-air as Sunderland pressed for a late equaliser.

4. Whilst the goalie saved us, our defence yet again did its best to lose us the game. Evra was left for dead in the 5th minute but the resulting cross went straight to Jones. It would be unfair to criticise him, as there wasn’t much else he could do other than kick it away. You would think that the ball falling to Vidic would ensure safety, but he got it stuck under his feet and gave it away to Gardner who took his shot well. Vidic had time to control the ball and deal with it, but he didn’t. These individual mistakes from our defenders are costing us badly. We could have gone 2-0 down in the first half when Jones lost the ball in a dangerous area, but thanks to Gardner’s indecision, Jones was able to get back and make a great challenge. The one thing that you could rely on from Moyes’ Everton was the defensive strength, so it’s bizarre that our defence is the weakest area on the pitch at the moment. With all the quality players we have in this position, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but it has to change quickly.

5. Robin van Persie looks off the boil at the moment which is really the last thing we need when our backs are up against the wall. The player who made such a difference to our season last year is struggling to have the same impact. The moment to sum up his day was when he was clean through on goal, thanks to some good work from Antonio Valencia, but opted to shoot with his left foot instead of his right. It seemed like an obvious goal but somehow he managed to strike wide of the post.

6. One of the criticisms levelled at Moyes over the opening few weeks has been his lack of substitutions, or useful substitutions at least. He got them nailed on yesterday though, bringing on players more capable of tracking back in Valencia and Welbeck, for two players who offer a lot going forward but not so much defensively, in Januzaj and Nani. Rafael was also making a few rash challenges and was on a yellow card, so bringing on Smalling, particularly with his height to aid dealing with the balls Sunderland were lumping in to the box, was the right move.

7. This wasn’t a classic performance and fans are justified in being frustrated but the most important thing right now is getting points on the board. Lots of fans, particularly those on Twitter and commenting on football blogs like this one, seem to have very short memories. United have played fairly badly on a fairly regular occasion for a few years now. We’ve got away with it and won a few titles along the way, but it’s as if people are forgetting the many results United have achieved which have been ground out, or at worst, completely undeserved. We deserved the three points yesterday though and it was vital we went in to the International break on the back of a win. We’re still some way off the top, which lots of people predicted for this stage of the season after the fixtures were announced, but we’re just three points behind City and four behind Chelsea (if they win today), so maybe now is the time to be patient rather than reactionary. Our match going fans supported the manager and team for 90 minutes, and they are certainly setting the example the rest of us should follow, just as Sir Alex Ferguson instructed.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. edcunited1878 says:

    @Manny1234….you say that Cleverley is the worst player in the squad. Have you not seen Buttner? He’s by far the most liable player in the United squad. He’s a yellow card waiting to happen and five stepovers too much. He does have a solid left shot, but that’s not his calling, he’s a left back.

    But in all seriousness, watch Clevs cover the ground he does, one-two touch passes up field and retaining the ball from mainly deep positions. He and Carrick work well together, but again Carrick has and Cleverley now receive the same shit about passing backwards or to the side. It’s all about ball retention and quick passes to start an attack. Clevs does this. But he and Carrick are two players trying to do the job of three.

    Just watching Januzaj’s first goal again and Clevs and Carrick are the deep lying center mids with Clevs playing a defensive role allowing Evra to take up his flank on the left and Adnan playing forward in the left channel….all knowing United had defensive cover behind them.

  2. denton davey says:

    scholes @ 17:33: “united should learn to play with either 3 man midfield or narrow wingers to stop from being outplayed in middle of the park. i suggested earlier united simply do not have midfielders for 2 man midfield”

    Only Bayern have the team to play with out-and-out wingers but they play with three inter-changing midfielders rather than just relying on Robben/Ribery to provide width, cut inside, as well as tracking back to protect the full-backs.

    It seems to me that UTD’s big problem in the transition away from SAF’s final teams is going to be centered on moving away from the out-dated 4-4-2 and using the inherited players (especially TheWayneBoy and MrJones) in new AND different ways.

    Maybe I was wrong in calling MrJones the perfect box-to-box midfielder – maybe I got the description of that role wrong. But whatever he’s going to be played, I don’t think that either right back or central defence make the best use of his talents. Indeed, it would be more-than-a-little-bit-interesting to see a three-man midfield of MC16/MrJones/TheWayneBoy. Perhaps there’s a silver lining in the injury to TheBigFella which will make it possible for the manager to experiment with this sort of alignment.

  3. denton davey says:

    I don’t understand the love that being shown for Wilfred Zaha – in my view he’s nothing special (cased on what I saw in the games on the summer’s Asian tour).

    If TheWayneBoy and RVP are dead-certs in the first-eleven, then Zaha has got a lot to prove before he gets playing time ahead of AdnanJ or Nani or KagawaBunga or Chicharito. He might be able to dislodge either/or AshleyBloodyYoung or AV25 but the other six guys I’ve named have to be played ahead of Zaha.

  4. scholes says:

    @ davey

    perfectly put. even i see roo as a perfect united midfielder. i would also like to see midfield trio of jones carrick and kagawa (not a kagawa apologist, januzaj will also do for me) up front with rooney, persie and nani as 3 prone attack

    i am afraid i have to agree with you on zaha as well. as much talent zaha has, he still seems to be miles away from united first team. i am not saying he cannot improve. is he better than young (atm)? i am not sure either.

    for those who write out cleverly seem to conveniently forget that he seems to be our only midfielder who has shown intensity to tackle and press. it is not his fault if you are expecting a xavi/iniesta sort of passing from the lad. united quality? get me one who is better than (at what he does) him in our team (presently).

    ando is far better midfielder than cleverly while attacking but defending wise he goes fishing. put cleverly stamina and intensity with ando’s positive forward play we got ourselves a complete midfielder. does not work that way though

  5. Axeman says:

    Missed the match live and just finished watching the replay just now.

    I have to say we weren’t shite as many people were claiming on here. Don’t get me wrong, we were far from vintage but it’s not like we were getting run over. The main problem was the lack of cutting edge and poor decision making in the final third.

    Rooney was making some atrocious passes and many of his moves were breaking down. Hes played almost every game since the start of the season and I think he is due a break. Let Kagawa and Chicharito get some games and Rooney can come back fresh after a couple of games. He’s going to play both the internationals, so I definitely think he should be rested when he returns.

    Cleverley didn’t do badly either. He broke up a lot of the play and got in the face of the opposition. One thing I noticed is that hardly any of our attacks came through the center. I attribute this to lack of cohesion between Rooney and the midfield.

  6. Manny1234 says:


    Carrick is miles better than cleverly. He gets the ball forward and most games plays a killer pass. Cleverly doesn’t push on enough and when in the final third can’t find a final ball. Arsenal play with a 2 man midfield yet are fine so do Chelsea and man city. They don’t seem to have the same problem. They have one deep lying player and one box to box. Evra has been getting caught out of position all the time putting more pressure on our defence and if he does go forward cleverly should cover but never seems to do it.

  7. Manny1234 says:

    United should of gone and bought gundogan from Dortmund him alongside carrack would be what we needed someone who drives forward can score goals, tackles and play the killer passes. Wish moyes would see the guys talent and probably be cheaper than Fellaini who is definitely not worth 28 mil. Yaya you’re had him in his back pocket. When dortmund played city gundogan was running rings round toure in both games home and away.

  8. montanared says:

    Cleverley is Uniteds most underrated player at the moment. Rooney is Uniteds most over-rated player this season. The free kick goals have been beauties but his performance in open play has not been good he refuses to play RVP in and either gives the ball away or sends it out wide. Whether his unwillingness to play through balls to RVP is subconscious or intentional I don’t know but what I do know is he doesn’t give a shit about United. This might be the reason RVP han’t looked himself the past few games. Moyes had to control the chaos during the off-season and keeping hold of Rooney was a big part of that, I think Rooney was promised playing time and a central position, if he can’t be main striker then he wants to be right behind him in the ten spot, that is why we haven’t seen Kagawa there yet. So whether it is Rooneys demands or Moyes insistence on playing Rooney in the hole the result is RVP not getting the best service and Kagawa not playing in his best position. As for Cleverly he was Carricks main partner last year and we won the league pretty comfortably with that pairing, the difficulties Fellaini has had, Anderson lack of progression, Giggs is liabilities in the middle, and Jones’s recklessness all suggest that cleverly is the best partner for Carrick at the moment, can’t understand some of the venom on here sometimes.
    personally I would like to see this line-up

    Rafa Evans Vidic Evra
    Carrick Cleverly
    Nani Kagawa Januzaj

    I still have faith in the other players and think both Rooney and Welbeck could play any of the front four positions, Valencia can be an effective right wing or fullback, Chicharito can step in or sub in at any moment up front. between Carrick, Clevs, Fellaini, Jones, Giggs and ando we should be to field a decent 2 in a 4-2-3-1. great posts on this thread today — we’ve got 4 home games in row coming up, let’s get some momentum going. MUFC….Ok

  9. Manny1234 says:


    We might of won the league but we never played all cleverly does is either go sideways or backwards then puts us in trouble. Next time you watch united watch cleverly closely and you will see how much of a liability he is.

  10. Adiosu says:

    To all those Kagawa fans: I am afraid Kagawa will be forced to leave Man Utd as he wants more playing time to prepare him for the World Cup. My bet he will be asking for a transfer in the January window while his stocks remain high. The longer he sits on the bench and not have any game time, his value as well as his confidence gets shot! By the time he comes on he will not be at his best and be “rusty”. The main reason for his downfall – Rooney! As long as he is at 10 and is in the team, not only Kagawa will be impacted but you will see the form and play of RVP being affected as well. As long as Rooney is playing – and I hope he continues to play well for the sake of the team – the team line-up will have to be modified to suit him. Kagawa will not be on the left wing as that’s best reserved for a true winger like Januzaj. So, I am afraid there is no room for Kagawa in this team line-up. The best Kagawa can hope for is bit part player off the bench. With that he can never shine. BTW: Watch what happens to Chicha too! Poor guy, he will be on the way as well as long as RVP/Rooney are on the field! So it will also be Adios to Chicha too!


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