Sunderland’s hopes were dashed once again as Manchester United came from behind to claim all three points. The loss keeps the Black Cats in last place, with just one point from seven matches this season. For United, the win brings much needed relief, pulling the side up to tenth in the table and easing some of the tension etched on David Moyes’ face.
The match got off to a dream start for Sunderland when the hosts took the lead in the fifth minute. Nemanja Vidic, who didn’t exactly have the best match against Shakhtar Donetsk midweek, set Craig Gardner up perfectly. Emanuele Giaccherini, racing up the right, sent a low ball into the United box. Phil Jones attempted to clear, instead sending the ball to Vidic. It bounced off the captain’s standing leg to fall for Gardner, who wasted no time in putting it in the back of David De Gea’s net.
The visitors were put in the uncomfortable position of chasing the game practically from the kickoff. United looked fine going forward, although the goal continued to elude. In the 20th minute, Nani, playing remarkably well, set up Robin van Persie, who managed to put his header wide. Then in the 41st, Nani himself had a go, getting on the end of a ball from Rafael and forcing a fantastic save from Keiren Westwood.
But United continued to look susceptible in defense, and Sunderland very nearly made them pay once more. In the 34th minute, Giaccherini got himself into a dangerous position once more, getting his head on the end of a cross from Adam Johnson, but De Gea pulled off a fine save to keep Sunderland to just one. Just before the halftime whistle, Giaccherini had another chance, again set up by Johnson. The winger cut in from the left and sliced the ball through three United defenders, but Giaccherini’s shot went well high.
The match was turned on its head in the second half, and the source came in the form of unlikely hero Adnan Januzaj. The youngster, just 18 years old, was handed his first start by Moyes, and Januzaj certainly repaid his manager’s faith. He put in the equalizer in the 54th minute, a lovely finish off a ball from Patrice Evra. The onrushing Januzaj used his right foot to sidefoot his shot past Westwood and into the top left corner.
But why stop a dream start with just one goal? Less than ten minutes later, Januzaj bagged himself a brace, sending in the go-ahead goal. This one was nearly a mirror image of the first. This time the ball came from a poor headed clearance on the part of Sunderland, but once again, Januzaj was ready. He used his left foot this time, catching it on the volley, twisting his body and putting this one into the right side of the net.
Sunderland did absolutely everything they could to rescue a point from the match, including bringing Keiren Westwood up for the final two corners of the match. That scenario brought about a fantastic foot race between Tom Cleverly and the Sunderland keeper, but in the end the ball was cut out by Giaccherini. A dramatic finish to a surprisingly dramatic match.
Sunderland Starting XI: Westwood, Celustka, Colback, O’Shea, Roberge, Cattermole, Ki, Gardner, Johnson (Ji 62), Giaccherini, Altidore.
Substitutes: Cabral, Larsson, Wickham, Cuellar, Borini, Mannone
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Smalling, Giggs, Kagawa, Hernandez.