Manchester United went top of the Premier League after beating bottom-of-the-table Sunderland 3-0 on Saturday. Goals from Memphis Depay, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata gave the Red Devils all three points at Old Trafford.
Depay struck deep into first-half stoppage time to spare United’s blushes after what had been a stale performance from the home side. Rooney netted United’s second barely a minute after the break before Mata capped things as time ticked away.
United began the day with in-form striker Anthony Martial partnering with Rooney and Depay in attack. At the back, Antonio Valencia was once again forced into a de facto right-back role to cover injuries to Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, with Matteo Darmian moving over to the left.
The club’s official Twitter feed detailed manager Louis van Gaal’s starting 11:
Sunderland’s Twitter account provided the full team:
There was plenty of possession from United, but a midfield needlessly underpinned by two holding players was struggling for inspiration. Van Gaal needed Morgan Schneiderlin or Michael Carrick to push forward and force the issue.
A tame free-kick from Depay in the final stages of the opening half summed up the home side’s lacklustre efforts in attacking areas.
But with the midfield searching for ideas, it was left to defender Daley Blind to produce some ingenuity. His superb cross-field, long-range pass found Mata at the back post. The Spaniard pulled it across for Depay to tap in four minutes into added time.
It took hardly a minute of the second half for the Red Devils to double their advantage, with Martial working terrifically from the right wing. His whipped cross eventually went in off Rooney’s knee amid a melee in the box.
But Sunderland almost found a consolation against the run of play as Patrick van Aanholt drew another tidy stop from the excellent De Gea. Depay was then denied when one-on-one with Costel Pantilimon after the flying Dutchman had been put through by the lively Martial.
Depay was determined to add to his tally and selfishly overlooked Rooney in the box late on. The former PSV star was soon hooked for Ashley Young.
United closed things out in a professional way, keeping a compact shape and being efficient on the ball to deny Sunderland any hope.
Rooney expressed his delight at seeing United claim top spot for the first time in a long while:
Sunderland and Advocaat are facing the reality of another season-long flirtation with the drop. Based on recent showings, it’s tough to see where the goals are going to come from.
United now hold top spot ahead of resuming a UEFA Champions League campaign that began with disappointment following a 2-1 loss away to PSV. But Van Gaal will have one eye on the next Premier League fixture, an away trip to take on revitalised Arsenal.
BT Sport pundit and ex-United player Robbie Savage echoed Rooney’s sentiment via his personal Twitter account:Rooney’s confidence visibly returned following his goal. He began drifting into the grey area between midfield and the forward line, where the 29-year-old does most of his damage. His passes constantly threatened to release Depay and Martial’s pace.But Van Gaal had left Basque pass master Ander Herrera out, and it showed in United’s tidy but aimless possession.The early exchanges were very quiet. Sunderland forced David De Gea into a smart save near the 25-minute mark. Depay then responded with the hosts’ first meaningful chance.Van Gaal’s fellow Dutchman Dick Advocaat countered with ex-United utility man John O’Shea at the heart of defence. Meanwhile, the Black Cats’ midfield was marshaled by the powerful Yann M’Vila.
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