The return of David Moyes to Manchester United proved to be more of an exorcism of ghosts of the past than anything else. The Old Trafford crowd didn’t even seem to notice he was in the dugout; no jeer, no cheer. It might have increased his determination to make his return to the grounds a proof of his worth.
Sunderland’s play was a reminder of the shuffling, timid approach that the reds once adopted, and a ghost they have fought since ‘the chosen’ left the helm at Old Trafford. Now that Mourinho has taken over he has made it a point to prove Sir Alex wrong at choosing Moyes over him, ‘the special one’, to continue his legacy. The highlights of the match were however not on the touchlines, here’s a few of key things picked from the match as United ran through the Black Cats 3 -1:
Yes, pun intended! The guy was all over that post denying United a total of 6 goals. I mean he is yet to prove himself in the class of the premier league’s best, don’t get me wrong, but Pickford certainly proved when his backline fails him it’ll take a lot of tries from the likes of Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to put him down (he will cower at any name that sound like mickey).
DeGea didn’t do bad himself, denying 4 shots, especially two in quick succession from Victor Anichebe. A save that Chelsea would have had a meltdown over if it were Courtois, but United faithfuls probably expect much more from DeGea at this point in his career so… moving on.
Zlatan – Pogba Influence
Expectations on Paul Pogba ever since he joined Manchester United have been high, however most speculators are blind to the play on the pitch. The lad has become increasingly influential on the pitch as he gathers more game time under his belt and has formed a formidable relationship with the man himself, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Despite the criticism they have received in recent games for, and rightly so, they have contributed largely to United’s 296 shots in the premier league this season, yet the team has recorded only 27 goals this term. Profligate isn’t an out of place description for that statistics still both players are proving a nuisance to defences just as they were against Sunderland; Zlatan’s hold up play and eye for creating chances produced the 1st and 3rd goals, Pogba’s steal and ball through to Zlatan created the 2nd of the match (his 12th in the EPL, standing at second highest).
Pogba is but the half of it. Alongside Ander Herrera they play henchmen to the silent boss himself, Michael Carrick. Carrick orchestrated the selfishness that was the core of United’s midfield. The team held onto the ball with much diligence and starved Sunderland, reducing the little chance they had of creating any chance.
Asides the midfield trio, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard operated as false wingers, drifting towards the No. 10 position as Valencia and Daley Blind ran the wings in their place. Lingard was inconsistent during the game, showing flashes of his quality from time to time. Mata on the other hand bothered the defence with his runs and his passes, the most promising of his positioning came when his run into the box was spotted by Antonio Valencia from United’s half of the pitch. He was however cleared off his path by a bullish shoulder bump by Kone in the box. As usual, no penalty.
The pairing of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo has been one of the most stable contingencies that any coach could have to call on. Their combo isn’t one that can boast of world beater capabilities but their concentration and tenacity proved enough to hold off Anichebe and Defoe, both of whom can give any backline a nightmare of a game.
Daley Blind has constantly proved mind over matter with how he tends to tilt the scale in his favour against his opposition with his intelligence (bar Pedro). Valencia on the other wing has grown a level of consistency that allows him to play as a wing back in a system that only demands a right back. He allowed Mata drift inwards by covering the width of the pitch while successfully annulling the threat of Van Aanholt during the game.
Mkhitaryan came on in the 61st minute for the mostly inconsistent Lingard and reminded the Old Trafford faithful what his capabilities are. Just a minute after his introduction Mkhitaryan had already registered a shot that was narrowly wide of Pickford’s post. His menacing run didn’t help the already thinned and tiring Sunderland defence gain any form of re-organization as United’s influence on the game continued to grow.
It seemed the game had little to offer beyond what it had already produced till the 56th minute when Zlatan Ibrahimovic found Mkhitaryan’s run – somewhat similar yet not as audacious as Valencia’s pass to Mata – that the headlines of the match were rewritten. Yes, Miki was offside, but no referee will be able to rule out that beauty of a goal. Realizing he had outrun Zlatan’s pass, Mkhitaryan managed to gather a backheel to chip the ball to the top left corner of the goal post. There was little Pickford could do this time but pick the ball.
Is United there yet? FAR from it. We still seem to take too long to settle in our elements, and our defence could really use some maturity. We’re getting there quite alright but it’s seeming to take more time than necessary. We play Liverpool soon and they will not sit back and let us dominate their midfield as recent clubs have. Expect pressure on our defence in a fluid approach, much like United’s but much more energetic.
Till then, we can confirm being chosen doesn’t guarantee being special. And as the rebuild of United continues we’ve successfully defeated the ghost of our past 3 to 1.