Sunderland turn screws on Van Gaal
An upset defeat to a relegation-threatened side puts United’s manager in the firing line after the lacklustre Red Devils once more fail to deliver the goods
Relegation-threatened Sunderland heaped further pressure on Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal after clinching a 2-1 victory over the Red Devils at the Stadium of Light yesterday. The Black Cats claimed the lead after just three minutes through new signing Wahbi Khazri, before Anthony Martial popped up in the closing stages of the first half to level matters.
The visitors failed to push on and grab a winner, as Sunderland dominated proceedings after the half-time break.
Sunderland eventually bagged the match-winning goal in the 82nd minute when goalkeeper David de Gea knocked the ball over his own line following a set piece.
Manchester United went into yesterday’s clash aiming to keep themselves in the hunt for a top-four berth, following a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
However, the Red Devils got off to the worst possible start when Sunderland claimed the lead after just three minutes.
Khazri fired a curling free kick into the danger area from a deep-lying position, and the ball somehow evaded everyone in the box before flying into the bottom-right corner.
Despite having the lion’s share of possession, United failed to cause the Black Cats any real problems.
It took them just more than 30 minutes to lodge their first shot on target.
Juan Mata let fly from outside the area, but Sunderland stopper Vito Mannone was alert to the danger, and snapped up the ball with relative ease.
United were dealt a further setback in the 38th minute when fullback Matteo Darmian had to be replaced.
Darmian’s withdrawal did not hamper United’s rhythm, as they went on to snatch an equaliser one minute later when Anthony Martial scored with a lofted effort from a tight angle after Mannone had palmed Mata’s powerful effort back into the danger area.
Sunderland had a chance to reclaim the lead in the third minute of injury time.
However, Yann M’Vila failed to find the mark with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
The hosts started the second stanza on the front foot and had a penalty appeal turned down by the referee in the 52nd minute after the ball struck Wayne Rooney on the hand, which was in front of his face.
The Black Cats again went agonisingly close to notching a second goal three minutes later.
However, Jermain Defoe saw his flicked finish cleared off the line by Daley Blind, who had slid in to put the ball behind.
United were struggling to keep Sunderland contained, and they had goalkeeper David de Gea to thank for keeping them in the contest when he rushed off his line to deny Dame N’Doye’s goal-bound effort with an outstretched leg.
De Gea was called into action again shortly thereafter, snapping up Khazri’s dipping free kick with minimum fuss.
The Red Devils eventually hit back with a chance of their own in the 70th minute.
But Mata saw his goal-bound effort blocked by substitute Jack Rodwell’s last-ditch tackle.
However, it was always Sunderland who looked most likely to force a breakthrough in the second half. And they did just that. On 82 minutes, Lamine Koné rose above his marker to power home a header that was deflected into the back of the net by the usually reliable De Gea.
Martial had a good chance to level matters two minutes from time, but his stinging shot from the edge of the box was tipped wide by Mannone.
The Black Cats held on to claim their first-ever home win against the Red Devils in the Premier League.
ENCOUNTER Sunderland’s Yann M’Vila (left), vies for the ball with Manchester United’s Juan Mata during their English Premier League soccer match at the Stadium of Light yesterday