Manchester United and Sunderland played a must-win game for both sides this Sunday. While Jose Mourinho’s side needed the three points to keep their Top 4 chances alive, David Moyes’ boys had to secure the three points to keep their dream of avoiding relegation alive. And even though the contest was far more even than originally expected during the first 45 minutes, United came out on top 3-0 following goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Mhkitaryan and Marcus Rashford. It was not their best performance, but they got the job done.
With the win, United extended their undefeated run to 21 games and remain very much alive in the race for a Champions League berth. Meanwhile, Sunderland remain buried in the standings and they seem destined to play in the Championship next season.
Zlatan saves United once again
The first 25 minutes were pretty dull, to say the least. Even though Manchester United had more possession in the early going, there was not a lot of difference between both sides. Sunderland played on the counter, while United looked to move the ball around but failed to find spaces in the final third.
The first big chance came for the Black Cats in the 29th minute. Jermain Defoe moved into a decent shooting position inside the box, but his effort went wide when Sergio Romero closed his angle. The Red Devils answered in the following play thanks to Jesse Lingard, but the winger’s shot from outside the box was parried away by Jordan Pickford.
On the subsequent corner kick, Manchester United broke the deadlock. And it was no other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic who found the back of the net. Ander Herrera passed the ball into the box, and the Swedish forward placed it on the far post away from Pickford’s reach. It was Zlatan’s 17th goal in Premier League this season, and his 28th across all competitions.
Ibrahimovic’s goal woke up United, as Mourinho’s boys increased the pace and began to dominate the goal. Lingard came close to add a second goal with a long-range effort, and Marouane Fellaini tapped a ball home from close range but a Sunderland defender blocked his attempt.
Sunderland crumbled before the break
To make things worse for Sunderland, Bryan Oviedo left the pitch in the 39th minute with a muscular injury. Sunderland had a final chance before the break when Victor Anichebe had a chance from close range. However, Romero came up big once again to deny the former Everton marksman.
Sunderland seemed like they were going to put up a fight in the remaining minutes, but they suffered another blow a few minutes before the break. Sebastian Larsson fouled Herrera, and referee Craig Pawson had no other choice but to send him off. In a five-minute span, Sunderland had to replace their left back and went down to 10 men while losing 0-1. Not the end they would have liked for the first half, especially considering how they started the contest.
United score early in the second half
Sunderland was expected to react after the break, but instead Manchester United were who got off to a fierce start. 45 seconds into the game, Mkhitaryan scored his fourth goal in the EPL this season with a left-footed shot that went into the far post despite Pickford’s reach. And just like that, it was 2-0 and Sunderland had an even bigger mountain to climb if they wanted to mount a comeback.
The Black Cats tried to turn things around, but their lack of ideas hurt them. And the fact that they were down to 10 men did not help them, either. Considering they had two goals of advantage and one more player on the pitch, The Red Devils did not take unneccesary risks and simply moved the ball around looking for spaces in the final third. That slowed the pace of the game, but it was clear United did not want to suffer their third consecutive draw.
Sunderland had another chance around the 60th minute, this time with a free kick from Defoe but Romero had no problems to control the shot. The Argentinian goalkeeper looked quite solid in his first Premier League start since joining the club a few years ago.
The Red Devils close the game out
Moyes sent Fabio Borini to the pitch in an effort to add another scoring punch. However, the former Liverpool forward was not able to make a big impact in the game. Mourinho also decided to rotate the side a bit, sending Marcus Rashford and Daley Blind in place of Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw, respectively.
However, the game ended as soon as Mkhitaryan netted the second strike early in the second half. United decided to secure possession and even though everyone seemed to get Rashford involved in the attack, the youngster was not sharp on his touches and they could not add a third goal to their account. Paul Pogba had a chance to score as well, but his free kick in the 83rd minute went wide.
Rashford seals the deal
There was time for another goal, though. A sharp combination between Pogba and Ibrahimovic allowed Rashford to find the back of the net in the 89th minutes. The youngster ended a 20-game goalless streak with that goal, and everyone seemed happy he found the back of the net. After three minutes of stoppage time, Pawson decided it was enough and sealed United’s 3-0 win on comfortable fashion.
With the loss, Sunderland remain at the bottom of the Premier League standings with 20 points. On the other hand, United moved to 57 points and sit in fifth place. However, they are five points behind Manchester City on the race for a Champions League berth.
Sunderland (0): Pickford (6); Jones (5), Kone (5), Denayer (5), Oviedo (5) (Manquillo 39′ (5)); Cattermole (5) (Borini 66′ (5)); N’Dong (7), Rodwell (6), Larsson (4); Defoe (6), Anichebe (5)
Unused Subs: Mannone, Djilobodji, Khazri, Gibson, Pienaar
Manchester United (3): Romero (7); Darmian (5), Bailly (6), Rojo (6), Shaw (6) (Blind 61′ (5)); Fellaini (6), Herrera (7), Pogba (6); Mkhitaryan (8) (Martial 78′ (-)), Ibrahimovic (8), Lingard (5) (Rashford 64′ (6))
Unused Subs: Pereira, Tuanzebe, Fosu-Mensah, Carrick
Goals: Ibrahimovic 30′, Mkhitaryan 46′, Rashford 89′
Referee: Craig Pawson. He sent off Sebastian Larsson in the 42nd minute with a straight red card.
Other Premier League results today:
Everton – Leicester City (KO Time: 4 PM UK)
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!