Sunderland 1-1 Manchester United: Rodwell’s first Sunderland goal thwarts United again

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Two matches, and Louis van Gaal is still without a win at Manchester United.

The defense still looked shaky and the attack disjointed as Sunderland nicked a point off the Red Devils and kept them winless through the first two Premier League matches of the year.

Former Manchester City young gun Jack Rodwell scored on his second Sunderland start and cancelled out Juan Mata’s early score to split the spoils.

It was a rough start for Manchester United’s defenders still learning Louis van Gaal’s 3-at-the-back system, as their defenders continually allowed opponents in behind them and made poor passes that were often cut out.

Will Buckley looked bright along the Sunderland flank, and he earned two fouls as United continued to play without their heads.

Despite these, Manchester United picked up the game’s first chance, and they were incisive enough to snatch the game’s first goal. Against the run of play, Antonio Valencia worked a deflected cross on the right flank and it found the end of Juan Mata’s run for the Spaniard to poke home for a lead after 17 minutes.

Sunderland continued to be bright, especially Buckley who ran rampant down the right, and he earned a corner on the half-hour mark. Jack Rodwell headed the corner into the back of the net after losing Tyler Blackett, and Sunderland were level.

There was little else from the first half other than a half-chance that Steven Fletcher whiffed with a bicycle kick, and Chris Smalling was forced off with a hamstring injury.

Manchester United didn’t look any sharper in the second half, and Connor Wickham nearly earned Sunderland the lead five minutes after the break when a beautiful touch scooped the ball over Darren Fletcher’s head before unleashing a volley that cannoned off Tyler Blackett and just evaded the post.

Robin van Persie did have an opportunity in the 61st minute, but his lovely feed from Mata and Fletcher resulted in a heavy touch from the Dutchman as he latched onto the ball.

Just one minute later, Manchester United had a pair of chances, with both van Persie and Ashley Young going to ground in the penalty area. Referee Martin Atkinson waved off both challenges, and booked Young for diving in the process.  There was definitely contact on both challenges, but van Persie’s was a good challenge by John O’Shea, and Young anticipated contact with Wes Brown the whole way through.

United thought they had a breakthrough in the 78th minute when substitute Danny Welbeck played a beautiful ball across the pitch to spring open Ashley Young behind the defenders, but Vito Mannone came well out of the box to thwart the attack.

That was about it, as United pressed and pressed and pressed for a goal as time wound down, but Sunderland defended bravely and looked to nick something off the counter.  Gus Poyet brought in Jozy Altidore with 13 minutes to go and he looked most dangerous on the break.  But it would not be as the sides shared the points.


Sunderland: Mannone; Vergini, van Aanholt, Brown, O’Shea; Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Jordi Gomez 64′), Buckley (Bridcutt 79′); Wickham, Fletcher (Altidore 77′).

Goals: Rodwell 30′

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling (Keane 44′), Blackett; Valencia, Cleverley, Fletcher (Januzaj 63′), Mata, Young; Rooney, Robin van Persie (Welbeck 63′).

Goals: Mata 17′

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.