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
Saturday 03 May 2014
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.
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
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