Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United: Five lessons we learned

by Tom Parker

Robin Van Persie‘s deflected first-half strike proved to be the difference between the two sides this afternoon and despite a period of pressure from Sunderland in the second half, it was relatively plain sailing.

Manchester United continue to rack up win after win, making it a record 25 wins in 30 games in the Premier League, in an unrelenting bid to not only capture a record-breaking 20th title but also to topple Chelsea’s record points total of 2004-05.

Team selection

As usual, Sir Alex Ferguson was completely faultless in his team selection for the lunchtime game. He was able to field a competitive team today while keeping the squad relatively fresh for Monday’s FA Cupyreplay with Chelsea, as United seek to complete a league and cup double and set up a mouth-watering Wembley showpiece with City.

Ferguson was able to give Ferdinand, Evra, Cleverley, Giggs, Rooney and Chicharito sufficient rest ahead of the quarter-final replay. With the team that he played, the balance was certainly present in an effective, professional performance that efficiently dispatched relegation threatened Sunderland.

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Pre match, plenty of time was afforded to the actions of some Sunderland fans following the dramatic conclusion to last season’s Premier League when a section proceeded with a Poznan celebration to mock United.

Revenge was promised by Sir Alex Ferguson and while today’s performance was hardly an 8-0 humiliation, the one goal victory was just as pleasing and it keeps United 15 points clear after City’s victory over Newcastle. It also plunges the small-time Mackems further into relegation trouble. Bravo, lads. Where’s your Poznan now?

Classy Carrick

In unquestionably his best ever season in a United shirt, it was yet another effortless display from the ever-impressive Michael Carrick. It speaks volumes that Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney were all rested following a late arrival from international duty but Carrick still played, despite playing the full 90 in Montenegro in midweek, underlining his importance.

Undoubtedly man of the match today, dictating the play and doing his fair share of defensive duties too, it was yet another virtuoso performance. Carrick was comfortably United’s best performer, completing an astonishing 83 of his 91 attempted passes including an 80% completion rate in Sunderland’s defensive third. It really is hard to believe it’s not Scholes.

Defensive solidarity

Considering the at times abhorrent defensive displays at the start of the season, it is incredibly pleasing to see that it is now over 600 minutes since David De Gea last conceded a goal in the Premier League, with Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez the last player to breach United’s defence over two months ago.

And while De Gea’s pretty boy looks may indeed be in tatters after an ugly looking collision with the hard-as-nails Nemanja Vidic after a superb punch, his record remains intact.

Vidic, Evans, Smalling and even the usually defensively liable Buttner were superb today and the target must now be Edwin Van Der Sar’s of 1311 minutes set in 2008-09. Who’d have predicted that at the start of the season?

15 points clear

Speaking of things few would have predicted at the start of the season, being 15 points clear at this stage of the season is rather surreal. It is of course testament to the abilities of both the players and Sir Alex Ferguson, with the team seemingly on an inevitable downward spiral at the end of last season.

United’s ever impressive away support were heard chanting “we’re gonna have a party on Derby Day” and it might not be for the title but either way, todays victory leaves the Reds in an almost insurmountable position.

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