Manchester United have gone top of the Premier League table with a 3-0 win over Sunderland this afternoon thanks to strikes from Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and a first league goal of the season from Wayne Rooney.
Man United made a solid start to the game and often had Sunderland retreating back into their own half. However, Costel Pantilimon was not tested too much in the Sunderland net. In fact, it was Sunderland who came the closest to opening the scoring when Jermaine Lens fired at David de Gea.
United were meek going forward for large parts of the first half but they managed to break the deadlock just before the interval when Mata squared Daley Blind’s long ball before Memphis tapped into an empty net.
It was a crucial time to score and United wasted no time in doubling their advantage after the break when Rooney prodded home following superb work from Anthony Martial. The goal was a hammer blow for Sunderland but they kept plugging away and Patrick van Aanholt tested De Gea with a stinging effort. Memphis then had a superb opportunity to seal the win for United but he fired straight at Pantilimon when clean through. Fortunately for United it didn’t matter as Mata sealed the points late on.
The Frenchman has made a blistering start to life at United and he continued his good form against Sunderland.
Martial held up the ball well during the opening exchanges and showed great feet to work his way past opposition defenders. It goes to show just how far the striker has come in a short space of time when supporters held their breath following a break in play while he received treatment for a knock.
In the second half, Martial’s determination, strength and pace allowed him to shrug off a defender before he crossed for Rooney to score United’s second goal. It was another superb display from Martial but supporters have come to expect nothing less from the 19-year-old.
Memphis was a real live wire during the first half and he caused problems on the left hand side of the pitch. His movement for the opening goal was good and he finished well.
However, the notoriously difficult to please van Gaal will still be looking for more from Memphis. The Dutchman sometimes held on to the ball too long or misjudged a pass during the first period and his good initial work came to nothing. Memphis really should have wrapped up the win for United after 68 minutes but he spurned the excellent chance. There is clearly a quality player in Memphis and his goal will be a big boost for his confidence but he still needs to fine-tune the intricacies of his game if he is to become great.
Subdued first half
Sunderland have had a terrible record in the opening stages of their games this season, and United knew they would go top of the league with a win, so it was a surprise not to see them shoot out of the blocks on Saturday.
Van Gaal’s side were poor from an offensive point of view early on as they meandered through most of the first half with no real purpose or conviction. Sunderland matched United with ease as a result. Thankfully, Mata and Memphis provided a moment of quality to give United the lead and, with it, breathing space. Despite the goal, van Gaal had obviously had words at the break with his players and United began the second half how they should have started the first by scoring seconds after the match had been restarted.
United’s captain has come under fire at points this term following some subpar displays but he finally got off the mark in the league against Sunderland.
Showing great determination to get into the box, Rooney latched onto Martial’s low ball and gave United a two goal cushion. The strike comes after his goal against Ipswich Town in midweek and hopefully the start of a good run for him.
Top of the league
United have been criticised, van Gaal has been questioned and players like Martial have been dismissed before even kicking a ball. Yet, United are top of the league. It is fantastic to see the club back where they belong and finally showing some consistency after a shaky start to the campaign. The question is whether or not they will be there come May.