After our match report, we cast a detailed eye over United’s Barclays Premier League defeat to Sunderland…
The Match: The Reds started slowly and with nothing except Europa League qualification to play for, the match lacked intensity in the opening exchanges. In contrast, Sunderland played with their Barclays Premier League survival at stake and, as a result, performed as if their very lives were threatened, chasing every ball and limiting United to just a handful of half-chances. While this match was by no means a classic, Gus Poyet will feel proud of his players for securing a hard-fought away win at Old Trafford.
The Goals: After a drab opening, Sunderland eventually broke the deadlock in the 30th minute as Seb Larsson latched onto a cross from Connor Wickham, the Premier League Player of the Month, to volley into the bottom corner of David De Gea's goal. The Spanish goalkeeper looked dejected, although he could have done little to have stopped the Swede’s perfectly executed finish.
Star Man: As the scoreline suggests, United’s forwards struggled to make an impact and the Reds lacked any real attacking threat in the final third – perhaps until substitute Danny Welbeck was introduced to the action, with his pace and urgency occasionally causing problems for the Sunderland defence. Phil Jones and Patrice Evra had decent games on the flanks, while Nemanja Vidic was typically powerful in the air, though this was definitely an afternoon to forgot for all concerned.
Sub-plot: Robin van Persie made his long-awaited return from injury, replacing Juan Mata to register his first appearance since scoring a hat-trick against Olympiacos on 19 March. While the Dutchman could do little to overturn the deficit, making just a handful of meaningful touches, he will benefit from the game time and is surely in contention to start against Hull City on Tuesday.
Statistics: United controlled 63 per cent of the possession and registered 17 shots, which was considerably more than Sunderland's eight efforts at goal. Unfortunately, the Reds only hit the target on two occasions, which is a statistic that tells the story of the game in itself.