Man Utd 2-0 Sunderland: 5 Talking Points

Ashley Young a Different Player this Season

It’s only been a few months since 99% of United fans would have personally driven Ashley Young to play for another club – that’s how poor he had been for United the past 2 seasons. Losing his England place was proof of that – he didn’t exactly have huge competition for his place but still couldn’t hold onto it. If LVG achieves nothing else this season, he can boast that he made Ashley a better player, but let’s all hope that he has a lot more to brag about than that!

Young played well against Sunderland yesterday. His final ball often went astray, but whereas in the past we might have blamed him, I believe it’s more about the coaching and the lack of understanding between the players, who often look unsure of where they should be in the attacking third. The constant change of personnel and systems can only be a nightmare for the players, and it shows every time they go out on the pitch. The impression is that Van Gaal does not believe in his systems or his players, or indeed both.

Falcao Resurgence Foiled by Baffling Substitution

Until Falcao’s world class touch in the penalty area, we were laboring and struggling to break down the Sunderland back line. Falcao was going to be dragged off before that touch of brilliance, but why Van Gaal stuck to that plan after Falcao won the penalty is quite honestly baffling. Maybe that was the touch he’s needed all these months to give him his confidence back, but instead of being rewarded with the chance to maybe grab some goals against 10 men, he gets hauled off.

Dreadful Di Maria

Di Maria was absolutely dreadful, as he has been in many games this season, but he has not become a bad player overnight. He is a man completely devoid of any confidence; a man that stars for Argentina and was brilliant for Real Madrid. So what has happened? Why is playing with such little conviction?

Mata on the Margins

I also wonder why Mata has been marginalised so much. He is maybe the only player we have with the vision and ability to consistently play those unexpected, defence-splitting passes that turn possession into chances. I can understand that LVG may prefer him on the bench against teams that we won’t dominate, but against teams such as Sunderland, who are going to allow us that domination, surely Mata is worth a place.

We Want Width!

It’s also worth noting that we have the third largest pitch in the league. We have always been successful playing with width. Playing Young and Di Maria wide looked like a good plan, suggesting that maybe LVG was wising up, but both of them kept coming inside instead of using the width of the pitch and combining with Rojo and Valencia to stretch the opposition. The rare occasions when they did create those 2-v-1s on the wings were when we looked the most dangerous, and Januzaj’s introduction in place of Di Maria added far more penetration from wide positions.

Squeaky Bum Time with 11 Games to Go

We have notched up another 3 points, but we’re already down in 4th position, with Liverpool breathing down our necks. The poor passing in those first 20 minutes will surely get punished by the better teams, and unfortunately we have some very difficult fixtures still to play. Those 5 games against Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal will of course determine our season. I am just hoping LVG does know his best system, shows 100% trust in his players, and that these teams will allow us a little more space than the likes of Sunderland. We need to pick up a minimum of 10 points from these 5 games; if we only lose to Chelsea, that might be enough to see us through.

This is definitely squeaky bum time, and now is the time for Van Gaal to show us how good he really is. Right now, the jury is definitely out, and these next 10 games are absolutely crucial. I don’t know about you, but I would take a thrashing by Arsenal in the upcoming FA Cup if it 100% guarantees us top 4 come mid-May. Of course we want to win the cup, but if we have the choice of one or the other, it has to be top 4.