A season punctuated by too many lows and very few, if any, highs plunged to a new whole on Saturday.
Arrived on Wearside on the back of their three best performances of the season and facing a Sunderland side stuck in the relegation zone, Manchester United reverted to type and produced a performance of such ineptitude that any talk of a top four finish must now surely be taken as a practical joke and nothing more than that.
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.
There are very few gifts in life, but writing satire on Sunderland the week Adam Johnson faces up to being called Patricia by his new cellmate is definitely one of them.
With a risk of this entire article being centred around prison jokes it’s probably best to get them out of the way now.
Jesse Lingard has admitted he has spent the last couple of weeks putting in extra training sessions to improve his finishing, after being instructed by Louis Van Gaal to be more composed in front of goal.
The 23-year-old scored a brilliant, if ultimately not winning, goal against Chelsea on Sunday and has looked a lot sharper in the final third since his miss against Newcastle a few weeks ago arguably costed United the game.
Manchester United have not given up the fight to clinch a top four finish this season, despite being six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, said Michael Carrick.
United dropped two points away at Stamford Bridge on Sunday when they conceded a late equaliser, meaning they’re now six points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s men, which still have to welcome United at the Etihad, and with a largely inferior goal difference.
Louis Van Gaal’s philosophy has found a surprising fan as Chris Smalling revealed he has been impressed with the Dutchman’s approach and his capacity to listen to his players.
After a torrid couple of months, United appear to be slightly turning their fortunes around, as back-to-back wins against Derby County and Stoke City were followed by an impressive display away against Chelsea, where United were only minutes short of winning the game.
Juan Mata was instrumental in Manchester United’s 3-0 win against Stoke on Tuesday night, as the Spaniard pulled the strings superbly, as his side played with an attacking intent they had not shown at any other stage of the season.
Deployed in his favourite number 10 role, the former Chelsea man, who scored against Derby a few days earlier, was mightily impressive alongside Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Louis Van Gaal has suggested Mata will continue to be selected in his favourite position as long as he continues to control games the way he did against the Potters, adding Mata had only himself to blame for being deployed in a different role.
Louis Van Gaal has rubbished Wayne Rooney’s suggestions that Manchester United have rediscovered their attacking instinct because they’ve been allowed to play with more freedom by their manager.
United have scored six goals in their last two games in all competitions and their performance against Stoke on Tuesday night, arguably the best attacking display they’ve produced under Van Gaal, prompted Rooney to claim a different approach was the reason behind United’s new-found scoring form.