Manchester United beat Sunderland 2-1 this Saturday, after being heavily criticized by the media during the week following their home defeat against West Bromwich Albion last weekend. As the score indicates it, it wasn’t an easy win for United, who could have very well lost the game if Sunderland hadn’t wasted so many chances in the first half.
United won the game thanks to two goals from their 18-year-old winger Adnan Januzaj, but the problems we have been seeing since the beginning of the season haven’t gone away. United still hasn’t played this season with the confidence that was theirs for so many years. During the Ferguson era, United would control possession, play with confidence, dictate the tempo of the game, and force other teams to defend deep into their own half. Teams like Sunderland would go into a game against United hoping to get a draw. A typical 4-4-2 team playing against United would switch to a 4-5-1 to be more cautious or tell one of their forwards to drop into midfield when out of possession. That ”fear factor” seems to have disappeared nowadays. Teams like West Brom and Sunderland now play against United with confidence, press them high up the field, and try things they would have never tried before.
On Saturday,Sunderland started the game with a lot of confidence, pressing very high and getting an early goal after a bad clearance by Nemanja Vidic. Every player makes mistakes and Vidic is no different in that aspect, but what’s alarming is the kind of mistakes United’s players have been making lately. For the first 20 minutes, United struggled to put five passes together, giving the ball away way too often. Wayne Rooney was particularly disappointing during that period, missing almost everything he attempted. The fact that an 18-year-old player got United out of trouble isn’t necessarily a good thing. I’m not taking anything away from Januzaj, who is a great talent, but when teams like United have their back against the wall, it’s usually their star players that step up and lead the team. Rooney and Robin Van Persie, United’s two best players, were far from brilliant.
Despite their win, David Moyes‘ men were far from convincing. We all knew that replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was never going to be easy for the former Everton manager, but it’s turning out to be more difficult than expected. The international break will give him more time to make the right adjustments and get United back to the top four where they belong.