Manchester United 0 Sunderland 1 match report: Sunderland’s miracle makes Giggs mortal

Gus Poyet’s side move closer to great escape as United defeat highlights need for new broom

Old Trafford

Sunderland can now look at the Premier League table with proper excitement; Manchester United will more longingly look to Louis van Gaal.

This hugely impressive 1-0 win puts Gus Poyet’s resurgent side on the brink of a genuinely great escape, but also provides a good reason why Ryan Giggs should not yet be given one of the biggest jobs in football, no matter how great the surge of emotion for his candidacy.

The argument against their old legend fully succeeding the sacked David Moyes is based on so much more than two games, but this drab performance did show that there are more problems at Old Trafford that cannot be fixed with a bit of old magic.

They need a proper break from the recent past, someone to change both the storyline and the direction. Here, Sunderland showed all the sharpness that the deposed English champions lacked.

The 31st-minute goal that  secured this victory, and may well go a long way to securing survival depending on Norwich City’s trip to Chelsea today, was a case in point.

 

After an extended period in which Sunderland’s excellent defence stood strong in the face of a sequence of unimaginative United attacks, the visiting side exposed a contrasting slackness at the other end. With the home side’s back four almost  motionless, Conor Wickham swung the ball over for Sebastian Larsson to spin and strike it into the corner.

The victory ensured a return of 10 points in the last four games for Sunderland, with seven of those remarkably secured at the homes of all last season’s top three. Poyet may not have quite needed a “miracle” to beat a pedestrian United, but it was the word he employed to describe his team’s recent run.

“Miracle was the word I used a few weeks ago and, apparently, every now and then it happens,” said the Sunderland manager. He did not yet feel safe, but is “feeling well, feeling great... of course, we can have a hand from Chelsea. I think it’s close”.

He added: “We were getting better. People don’t realise sometimes, when you watch the highlights, we weren’t getting breaks, a penalty against West Ham, we couldn’t score from three yards against [Crystal] Palace. We were putting ourselves down, down, down. We needed something very special.”

They got it. United, meanwhile, may now realise they need something even more special than just the spell of a club legend being installed as manager. This game was a timely reminder that raw emotion can only take you so far, given that the backing for Giggs to take the job is almost entirely based on emotion. It was as if all the energy from last week was already spent. Rather than evoking the brilliance of the Class of ‘92, this was a reminder of the last seven months under Moyes. Giggs effectively admitted that in his assessment.

“First half we got some decent crosses in and just didn’t get enough people in the box,” the stand-in manager said. “Second half we had all the possession and just couldn’t find that key pass or bit of quality to get us back in the game. I am sure if we scored one we would have gone on to score more. Lack of quality and lack of concentration in the final third.

“In past seasons, even today, there would be waves and waves of shots and saves and you could always sense a goal was coming, but this season it doesn’t seem to have happened.”

By contrast, not much really happened at all. United barely created a chance of note in the first half. Even in the second, when Adnan Januzaj, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck were all brought on, the goal – or even key chance – never followed. It was still Sunderland who looked more threatening, hitting the frame of the goal twice, through Emanuele Giaccherini and Fabio Borini.

Now, they are within touching distance of survival, something that just three weeks ago seemed so improbable.

“You cannot plan with Sunderland,” Poyet smiled. “You need to expect the unexpected with Sunderland.”

Today, a Chelsea win over Norwich is expected, but Poyet may not even watch. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to,” he admitted. “I’m going to be heading [every] ball, but we’ll see.”

Meanwhile, Giggs is looking to what are likely to be his last two games in charge. “I have not really thought about that,” he said. “Just disappointed about today’s result.

“I will concentrate on Tuesday night and if [United vice-chairman] Ed [Woodward] or the board want to ask my opinion or advice on anything then I am willing to give it so that is where we are at, at the moment.”

Sunderland’s moment, meanwhile, is so close to being seized.

Line-ups:

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fletcher; Nani (Januzaj, 53), Young (Welbeck, 66), Mata (Van Persie, 66); Hernandez.

Sunderland (4-3-3): Mannone; Vergini, Brown, O’Shea, Alonso; Larsson (Bridcutt, 76), Cattermole, Colback; Johnson (Giaccherini, 58), Borini, Wickham (Altidore, 64).

Referee: Howard Webb.

Man of the match: Larsson (Sunderland)

Match rating: 6/10

Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' by John Constable
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
musicYou'll have to ask Taylor Swift first
News
Joel Grey, now 82, won several awards for his role in Cabaret
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness