Ashley Young barclays

Black Cats' Clipped Nails

1:40 PMAleks Vee

Wayne Rooney proved it's never too late to score.
Another loss for Martin O'Neill's team was another win for Sir Alex, prolonging the 6-point gap between the Reds and Manchester City. The Black Cats conceded three goals in their home game against Reading, and now another three at Old Trafford. The first half was a nightmare for the guests as United kept the ball rolling towards Simon Mignolet's net. Ashley Young and Patrice Evra were both brilliant, though the former was better in the attack. Evra missed a great chance in front of the net, but Robin van Persie soon took up the opportunity from the same spot, scoring after Young's phenomenal parrying of the Sunderland defense. Van Persie has certainly lived up to expectations and continues to satisfy supporters by scoring or assisting in almost every game. Though he missed the near post as well as his double, United still got their second ball in from Tom Cleverley, whose solo effort was left unchecked by the guests. With plenty of space in front of the net, the Red got a quick shot dead-on the corner of the far post. Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, wasn't as lucky as his teammates. Even after a perfect pass from RVP, Rooney missed the near post from about 11 meters out. There were no signs of impending doom for the Reds, but a few defensive flaws were already starting to make an unwelcome appearance. Rio Ferdinand played the ball with his head instead of clearing it out, giving it away too easily. He was lucky that McClean did not shoot well, and that De Gea was positioned for the save. What prevented the fulfillment of some nice combinations by the Red Devils was the lack of attention when it came to short passes. Whether after corners or in regular play, the ball would near Sunderland's box, only to be lost after a short pass that never made it to the receiving player. Nevertheless, United collected plenty of set pieces, and made good use of most of them as they have throughout the season. Their opposition was deprived of their best striker near halftime after Steven Fletcher picked up an injury. Yet Sunderland had the final say in the first half, led by James McClean. It's difficult to count Ashley Young's poor attempt after as the final moment of a rather exciting 45 minutes. The piece de resistance was probably referee Chris Foy's eagerness to adjust the ball before some of the corner kicks. That and his lack of cautions, as well as an apparent blindness to handballs.

The second half was United's veteran showcase as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs took the field. The unlucky Rooney failed to score for a third time after the keeper and the crossbar blocked his shots. Ferdinand and De Gea successfully protected the net from the ever-eager Gardner and Sessegnon. As always, van Persie's thirst for goals drove him forward, chipping the ball over Sunderland keeper Mignolet. It would have been a perfect moment to pass to Rooney instead, who was running up on the right. Apparently, fifth time's the charm for United's number 10. Much like Young's assist earlier in the first half, RVP infiltrated the defense on the left, giving Rooney a chance to chip the ball in. The third goal proved that, if anything, Sunderland's biggest weakness lies in the midfield. That said, it was sad to see United give away the initiative with a whole half an hour left in the game. Sessegnon tested De Gea for the second time with a right-footed shot through the center, forcing him into a dive. Soon came the goal that, fortunately for Sir Alex, did not make the difference between three points and one point. The way the goal was conceded, however, was perhaps worse than the way Sunderland let United score. Sessegnon's chip from the left gave the newly-subbed Fraizer Campbell a one-touch finish as he headed the ball in near the goal line. Replays showed a United defense whose minds were clearly elsewhere, players who were standing perfectly still and a confused De Gea who was clearly waiting for defenders to take action. United did get in some late action, but players lacked accuracy in the box, and RVP was late on a near-post header. Sunderland came dangerously close to another goal as the ball teased De Gea's goal line, but nothing came of the moment, and the Cats had to settle for another loss.

Stuck in Heartbreak Hotel

Like any great manager, Sir Alex was not pleased with the game, regardless of the result. Some attribute United's defensive loopholes by pointing out the absence of Nemanja Vidic, who made his first appearance on the pitch in awhile in today's game as a substitute. The Reds are now faced with an Evans injury. But it's mighty rare that nobody in a roster is injured at all. There's really no excuse for childish errors, especially from a world class team like United. Sir Alex's team may be first in the standings, but the statistics are dreadful - 24 goals conceded in 17 games, the same amount as 16th place Sunderland and 14th place Aston Villa. The times are always tough, but defenders have had a faulty attention span all through this season. How a team wins is significantly more important than the three points themselves - looking at a shaky Arsenal side, nobody was thrilled when Wenger's team came back from a 4-goal deficit to Premier League outsiders Reading. That's not to say United are faced with a similar threat, but keeping a clean sheet is currently their greatest challenge.

Barclays Premier League - 17th Match Week
Sunday, December 9, 2012, 8:30AM EST

Manchester United vs. Sunderland - 3:1 (2:0)
Venue: Old Trafford (Manchester)
Referee: Chris Foy (Lancashire)
1:0 Robin van Persie (Asst. Ashley Young) (16')
2:0 Tom Cleverley (19')
3:0 Wayne Rooney (Asst. Robin van Persie) (59')
3:1 Fraizer Campbell (Asst. Stephane Sessegnon) (72')

Half Time Stats:
5:4 shots on target
5:0 shots off target
6:2 fouls committed
0:0 yellow cards
0:0 red cards
7:3 corners
1:0 offsides
55:45% possession

Full Time Stats:
16:14 shots on target
5:7 shots off target
13:10 fouls committed
0:0 yellow cards
0:0 red cards
9:9 corners
2:1 offsides
62:38% possession

Miscellaneous Stats:

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