Manchester United once again extended their 6 point lead over nearest rivals Manchester City with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford. Roberto Mancini’s side had reduced the lead by half earlier this afternoon as they too won 3-1 against their north-east opponents.
Robin van Persie’s 12th Premier League goal of the season on sixteen minutes was the first in a three minute double salvo for the Red Devils as Tom Cleverley quickly made it two goals to nil. Wayne Rooney wrapped up the win with a second half tap-in before Frazier Campbell scored on his return to Old Trafford to keep up United’s miserable record of only two clean sheets at home so far this season.
United had a troubleless first half in which they dominated. If it had not been for some poor composure in front of goal it would’ve been a far bigger winning margin. Patrice Evra blasted over from fifteen yards, unchallenged and unmarked following a corner before the home side took the lead on sixteen minutes.
Phil Jones powered his way from right wing to left to find Ashley Young. Carlos Cuellar tried to stop the former Watford and Aston Villa winger from finding a way in to the box but failed to do so. Young staying strong to get away from the Spaniard and cross.
Robin van Persie benefitting as he calmly controlled before side footing past Mignolet. The lead was doubled three minutes later. Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick combining with a one-two. The move ending in Cleverley expertly curling the ball beyond Sunderland’s Belgian goalkeeper into the far corner.
A beautifully constructed goal which made certain that United had a firm stronghold on the game. Wayne Rooney then missed two glorious chances within a few minutes. The first a right volley just wide of the post after van Persie’s knock down. The second a header in to the side netting from Ashley Young’s left wing cross.
Sunderland’s only noteworthy chance in the first half came from James McClean. The left footed Irish international shooting at De Gea from a tight angle when passing the ball to Steven Fletcher for an empty net seemed the better option.
The second half started as the first half had. Within the first two minutes Wayne Rooney struck the bar with a deflected effort. Ashley Young lifting the rebound over the bar. The third goal came on fifty nine minutes. Wayne Rooney finally finding the goal he wanted against Sunderland.
Young passing the ball in to the feet of van Persie who sandwiched himself between and away from Carlos Cuellar and Titus Bramble to tee up Rooney for an easy tap in to an unguarded net. Other chances came and went, van Persie heading wide on the stretch the closest.
Sunderland pulled one goal back however. After De Gea had denied both Sebastian Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon, Martin O’Neill’s side found the net from the resulting corner. The ball coming back out for Sessegnon to cross. Frazier Campbell on as a substitute heading in on the line as United once again rued a lapse of concentration.
The win which should’ve been more comfortable was overshadowed by the change in performance which was plain to see as the second half grew old. Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, who I regard as our best midfield partnership, is where the football began to decline.
Both played with fantastic energy, fluid triangular passing, breaking up the oppositions play. It was admirable to watch. But at the start of the second half the partnership was broken up as Carrick made way for Paul Scholes. The crisp passing, the quick change from defence to attack had now gone and it showed as Sunderland saw more of the ball and got at Scholes quickly to break up our rhythm.
After Cleverley was then removed for Giggs the whole tempo of the United’s game changed. It slowed and Sunderland saw more and more of the ball. The supply for Rooney and van Persie from the centre of midfield became non existent and Valencia was the only means to an attack down the right hand side.
Thankfully this was only for the last twenty minutes. We saw United at their blissful best this season in the first half and then how we’ve looked in other games, Norwich away, Tottenham at home, both felt similar to the last twenty minutes of today’s game.
But that’s something that can be better described later. Swansea are next up. A tough game of which I can see us winning comfortably. Providing that first half performance with Carrick and Cleverley can be repeated. For now, the Reds go marching on, on, on!