You know things aren’t going your way when the crowd cry “SHOOT!” when the goalkeeper comes to collect the ball close to the half way line. It was just one of those days. It didn’t seem to matter how many chances we created, how much possession we had, or how much time we spent in Sunderland’s half, it looked as though we weren’t going to score today.
At the start of the second half I wondered just how long Sunderland could hold out with their chosen tactics. The only time the ball went in to our half was when one of their players, from defenders to strikers, hoofed the ball away from their box.
Sunderland proved they could hold out for another 45 minutes… but then they crumbled.
It was a good job Roy Keane had left the club for the sake of the players and Roy’s mental well-being. Not many teams will come to Old Trafford and prevent us from scoring for such a long time, so to concede just as the injury time was being announced would have sent Keano through the roof.
Frustration mounted in the crowd the longer Sunderland kept us out though, a feeling which clearly infiltrated in to our players, all of whom were in Sunderland’s half of the pitch as the clock ticked down.
Dimitar Berbatov had the best chance of the game with 15 minutes to play, thanks to a perfect cross from Michael Carrick. Berbatov rose higher than anyone else, yet still managed to head over the bar. With time running out, Giggsy pulled the ball back for Anderson a few yards out but his hesitation allowed the defender to get a block in.
In total, United had 23 shots, 8 of them on target, whilst Sunderland had 0 shots, on or off target. On another day, it might have 4-0, but on this day, it looked as though it was going to finish 0-0.
I already could hear the post-match analysis in Match of the Day, praising Sunderland for their resilience, talking of how they got their tactics just right, whilst also questioning United’s title challenge.
Nemanja Vidic saved us though. The fact that our centre back was on the edge of the six yard box, to tap in a shot that came back off the woodwork, suggests how desperate we were for that goal and thankfully it came.
It wasn’t the absolute thrashing a lot of people were expecting but it’s been a while since we’ve had a feel good feeling like that. With every missed chance and failed opportunity to score came great tension and frustration. To see the Sunderland keeper scrambling to get back in position from Carrick’s shot, watching Vidic approaching faster than any of the defenders, knowing he was going to put the ball in the back of the net, was a moment to behold.
To follow on from our great performance against City last weekend, it would have been brilliant to continue that form on with several goals against a despondent Sunderland team. It wasn’t to be, unfortunately, but with five minutes to go yesterday I wouldn’t have given a shit less about the amount of goals scored, as long as we picked up three points. That’s exactly what we did and we should be more than pleased with that.