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Five things we’ve learnt from Sunderland vs United

Sunderland-v-Man-United (1)Manchester United’s already slim hopes of reaching a top four finish this season were dealt a fresh blow as they slumped to an embarrassing defeat away at Sunderland on Saturday.

Having gone behind after just three minutes, United equalised through a sumptuous Anthony Martial’s finish and looked to have dragged themselves back into the game, only to serve up an utterly inept performance in the second half as Sunderland found a deserved late winner.

Here’s five things we have learnt form yesterday.

1) Goodbye top four

A few weeks ago, Louis Van Gaal claimed United were still in the title race, on Friday he conceded his side’s only goal this season was a top four finish but, following United’s dismal display at Sunderland, he was forced to admit United are likely to watch the Champions League on TV next season.

At least the Dutchman has now finally seen the light as, based on Saturday’s performance, his side have absolutely zero chance of breaking into the top four and, even if they did, they would simply be making up the numbers in the Champions League next season.

Even with matches against the current top four sides still to come the chances of United closing the gap are minimal, in fact they might have to start looking over their shoulder as Southampton and West Ham are only a point behind.


2) Crunching numbers

Earlier this week, Ed Woodward rolled out a series of impressive figures as United published their quarterly results, which sadly seem to be the only kind of result the club has an interest in these days.

On the pitch, the numbers make for a grim reading, as Van Gaal’s side have failed to win in 17 of their last 26 games in all competitions, have a point less than they did at this time of the season during David Moyes’ catastrophic tenure and have picked up a meagre 11 points in nine games against the sides currently in the bottom six.

During the Premier League era, no United team has had fewer points at this stage and no United team has scored fewer goals. Title challengers? You’re having a laugh.

3) Lack of aggression costs United


Speaking after the game, Wayne Rooney was almost lost for words as he tried to explain United’s dismal performance, admitting his side didn’t create enough chances and were overwhelmed by Sunderland’s intensity.

“The aggression of Sunderland was much higher than our aggression and we could not cope with them,” Van Gaal said as he echoed his captain’s words, further highlighting the feeling the Dutchman has long given up the fight.

United’s soft approach was inexcusable but perhaps not entirely surprising as Van Gaal has been a lame duck for two months and the players must surely know the Dutchman’s future is already decided.

4) Another season wasted

Even if Woodward finally decides to sack Van Gaal before the end of the current campaign, United will look back onto the season as another wasted opportunity. Woodward in particular should have acted when United were still in an eminently better position than the one they find themselves in and should have sacked Van Gaal after the defeat at Bournemouth.

After losing to Eddie Howe’s side, a result which came after United had picked up only two points in their previous two Premier League games, United were fourth, six points behind league leaders Leicester, four and three points below Arsenal and City respectively and three points ahead of Spurs.

Since then, United have picked 12 points, Arsenal and City 15, Leicester 18 and Spurs 22. Failure to finish in the top four this season could have been averted had Woodward acted in time.

5) Europa League to be taken seriously?

After the defeat at Sunderland both Rooney and Van Gaal said winning the Europa League might be United’s only chance to secure a Champions League spot.

“It will be very difficult to qualify for the Champions League through the top four now. We know that. It’s a sad day for us,” said the United captain. “Winning the Europa League might be the only way we can get into it.”

However, would anyone really expect a team incapable of beating a struggling Sunderland side to see off the likes of Spurs, Napoli, Sevilla and Dortmund? No, the wouldn’t.




  1. storm

    14 February 2016 at 12:47

    I’ve said it before, it’s the ability to make the right team selection, tactics, substitutions and to provide motivation that are the key elements of any successful manager’ job. Van Gaal has consistently failed on all of these points. Looking at the two sides yesterday, individually, Utd had the better players but collectively, Sunderland did, that’s why they won. Herein lies the problem, van Gaal can’t get Utd playing as a team. It’s not that he’s necessarily a bad manager, but he’s certainly not right for Utd, and therefore has to go.
    He won’t leave, why should he? He retires at the end of next season and this is his last big payout, he just has to sit tight and collect his money.
    So, it’s up to Ed Woodward to sack him. Utd are now somewhere near the World’s richest club, so they can afford to sack him, pay him what’s due and move on. What they can’t afford to do is to let things carry on the same. If they take the decision now, there is still a hope of CL football next season. If they don’t, then by van Gaal’s own admission, there isn’t.
    I suspect Ed Woodward gets paid a small fortune. It’s now time for him to earn it.

  2. Mackem Faithful

    14 February 2016 at 13:03

    Reading the above, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

    Swap places?

    • storm

      14 February 2016 at 16:33

      @Mackem Faithful: Foresight is a far more wonderful thing and Utd now need a board that has it and a manager who can show it.

  3. joe

    14 February 2016 at 13:42

    Woodward being the glazers representitive on planet earth is way out of his depth,its alright sorting out a new crisp deal in indonesia sorting out utd at home is way beyond him,he along with the parasites he represents are the problem,until this is sorted out any progress will only be short term.

  4. colver

    16 February 2016 at 13:04

    What is interesting is that there is a common denominator in virtually all our Premier League defeats this season: Schweisteneger was injured/suspended and Fellaini was playing in his place. You see that playing out against Bournemouth, Stoke, Norwich, Southampton and Sunderland. Schweisteneger was integral to Van Gaal’s possession football in much the same way as Carrick was last season. Look at the games lost last season with or without Carrick and you get a very similar story. Fellaini instantly destroyed the balance to Van Gaal’s system which was dependent on having two defensive midfielders to shield the defence and recycle possession and without the ability to dominate possession we suddenly became very vulnerable. I fail to understand why Van Gaal did not use Rooney or Herrera in place of Fellaini. Both can do a much better job in central midfield while Fellaini has shown consistently throughout his career, even at Everton, that he can only play as a number 10. There have also been games where Schneiderlin has been fit and yet not selected.

    Ultimately LVG’s system is too rigid with too little margin for error and injuries etc and too reliant on key personnel to embody his philosophy on the pitch. And with its emphasis on defence and possession when those fail us we do not have the ability to outscore the opposition which saved our skins time and time again under Ferguson. I think as a team we also have a severe lack of backbone and pride. The way we let ourselves slip from top of the table to fifth place is unforgivable. I don’t know if it is a question of motivation, burnout or just getting fed up with all the repetitive training drills, team meetings etc. But with spineless modern footballers with little professional pride we need a coach who can inspire loyalty and that is not LVG. I don’t know if it is Mourinho either. Players love him for a season or two when they are winning but as soon as they start losing they turn against him.

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