United draw again: Is that a point gained or two points dropped?
Sunderland 0-0 Manchester Utd: Observations
Apparently, the reason why this game was delayed by 20 minutes was due to a sewage pipe bursting. Having watched a toothless Manchester United’s fire blanks against a dogged, spirited Sunderland, you could come up with a thousand bowel-related jokes to describe the visitors performance.
Yet, as bad as United were in the final third, they were much improved at the back. A reverse, if you like, of what was the case beforehand on United’s away travels. It was better in that sense, then. It’s not hiding the fact that United were poor but it was encouraging to see them defend with more commanding presence than before, keeping their line tight and ultimately, and rather belatedly, keeping a clean sheet! Going forward, Sunderland were the better side and had many a copuple of chances to break the deadlock, not least Steed Malbranque’s effort which was splendidly saved by Van der Sar, a man who is turning 40 in a few weeks.
Indeed, Van der Sar is a man with a job half-complete, it seems. Having done everything, seen everything and pretty much won everything, the Dutch veteran looks as if he can go on forever. And don’t you know it. He still manages to looks as if he has the same enthusiasm as he had ten, fifteen years ago, when he was playing at Ajax. Not much has changed, has it? To continue the positive vibe this section of the article is giving out, both Rafael and Nemanja Vidic were excellent.
However, that’s it for praise. The truth is, United were bad. Very bad. First of all, the team selection was not ideal. Michael Owen and Kiko Macheda started, at the expense of Berbatov and Hernandez. I do realise that neither forward received any such service that all strikers need, but it’s key to put out your strongest side, especially against a team which deserves a lot of respect when facing them, i.e Sunderland. Macheda and Owen are both good, useful frontmen but it should be agreed that the duo are below Berbatov and Chicharito in the pecking order.
Furthermore, there was simply no sense of balance in the team nor was their defined roles for a couple. United lined up in a 4-4-2, with Anderson appearing to start on the left, only to tuck in the centre and Macheda to play on the left. That’s why United struggled, not exactly a problem with individuals, but as a collective, they found it difficult to keep and were anything but organised. United are very short of options – so much so, that Bebe (who did make his league debut) and Gabriel Obertan may be given an opportunity. It was a disappointing performance, but United must bounce back and improve their effort away from home. Sunderland were good today (in some ways better) – so in that case, it’s one point gained, really. Why did United play so badly? Not sure – but they better not used the sewage pipe burst as an excuse for their performance which, frankly, stank…
Ratings: Van der Sar 8*; Rafael 8, Ferdinand 7, Vidic 8, O’Shea 7; Nani 6, Anderson 7, Scholes 5, Fletcher 5; Macheda 5, Owen 5