Manchester United continued their poor form away from Old Trafford as they fell 2-1 to Sunderland at The Stadium of Light. An unfortunate own goal by David de Gea in the 82nd minute would send United packing and once again turn up the heat on manager, Louis van Gaal.
Sunderland started the game off brilliantly with an early goal by January signing, Wahbi Khazri, who ended playing a solid match for the Black Cats and would be their man of the match. The Red Devils would then take control for the remainder of the first half and their play would be rewarded in the 39th minute by a beautiful game-tying goal by Anthony Martial, who had a very tight angle to work with.
After controlling much of the first half, United would succumb to their tepid ways in the second half and remain very passive and unsure of their attacking play. Their foes, sensing the uneasiness of United would send Dame N’Doye through on goal, however, he was denied by de Gea, who stuck his foot out to make a brilliant save.
An injury and a tactical shakeup would force van Gaal to give some of United’s younger players a chance. A shoulder injury to Matteo Darmian would give Donald Love his debut and a tactical change saw Will Keane make his first senior appearance since December 2011.
Daley Blind’s defensive partner, Chris Smalling has been receiving all the praise this season, but on this day it was the Dutchman who out performed his England counterpart. Blind, who would earn player of the match, ended the match with an impressive 85% pass completion percentage and 3 tackles, however, his important block on Jermain Defoe’s attempt kept United in the match until the late own goal.
The three point swing keeps Sunderland further away from last in the league and United now six points away from 4th place. With United’s league results continuing to be inconsistent, they may have to hang their hats on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next season. Their first Europa League test comes this upcoming Thursday as they travel to Denmark to take on Midtjylland.