Wayne Rooney’s first league goal and brace of 2015 was enough to propel Manchester United to third place in the Barclays Premier League as they beat 10-man Sunderland. Both of the Englishman’s goals came in the second half as the Red Devils stumbled to another three points without doing too much.
After a bright start by the visitors, the game was meandering through until the second half, when the introduction of Adnan Januzaj, added some much-needed vigor into United’s attacks. Radamel Falcao was brought down and the side’s second penalty in as many home games was calmly dispatched by Rooney. The second was even easier as the club captain simply headed home from close range after Costel Pantilimon parried Januzaj’s shot. The results leaves the Black Cats still three points off the relegation zone with crucial games against Aston Villa and Hull coming up in the next two weeks. Here are the major talking points from the game.
Summer signings still struggling
When you break the British transfer record and sign one of the world’s most complete forwards, the least you expect is flair and goals. Unfortunately for Louis Van Gaal, neither Di Maria nor Falcao have done anywhere near enough to justify their place in the side. Although the Dutchman has shown that he isn’t afraid to change things when necessary like he did on Saturday, when he took off both players, that simply shouldn’t be the case.
Both players are struggling to adapt to the Premier League in two very distinct ways. Although he had bright start, the Argentine, since his return from injury, has been far from his best. His main problem has been holding onto the ball. Having played in Spain, his tendency to go down and expect free kicks at the slightest of contact hasn’t helped his cause either. For the Colombian, it is a very basic problem. Whether due to his injury, age or simply lack of effort, Falcao isn’t making the runs in behind the defense that is going to cause them problems. It has been six months already and yet we are no closer to seeing either player at their very best.
Referee makes a blunder
Before we go into criticizing a referee for his decision making, for the umpteenth time, let us be clear on one thing. Even if the referee hadn’t sent off Brown, it is very likely that the Black Cats would have still ended up losing the game. But the result of the sending off is that one of the side’s most important defenders will now be missing for the next three games unless the red card is rescinded.
Now let us take a closer look at the decision by Roger East to send the English defender off. First of all, Falcao was clearly fouled by John O’Shea as he turned to take a shot at goal. So that was a penalty and everything else that happened afterwards was secondary. But East has since said that he sent off Brown because he believed that he committed a second foul on the striker in the process of shooting and that’s why he was sent off. Replays clearly show that the centre back didn’t touch him and the second foul, if anything was again committed by O’Shea. So it was a mistake, clear and simple, even the argument seems legitimate.
Simpler is always better
Manchester United got three points at home, but were unconvincing. No surprises there, as that has been the story of their season so far. But what is surprising is some of the decisions that Van Gaal made. Whether it was staying on Di Maria’s side after another abject performance, playing him as a right winger or bringing on Fellaini, just when Falcao was starting to look good, the Dutchman made some curious calls over the course of the game.
But the one that he must pay attention to the most, is how his team lined up in the second half. Until Falcao’s removal, United played with a traditional 4-4-2 with two old-fashioned wingers, albeit on the opposite flanks and two genuine strikers. After a pedestrian first half, the change of shape worked in the second and might give the Dutchman a clue as to how he can set his side up for the rest of the season. For all the talk of three at the back, diamond in midfield and everything else, old might just gold for Van Gaal and United.