It was smooth, it was comprehensive, and it was decisive. Before and after Seb Larsson’s 43rd minute sending off, Manchester United was the better side as they cruised to a 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light, keeping their Champions League hopes alive.
The home side had little to offer in the early going, and Manchester United took advantage, controlling the pace of the game and the attacking flow. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an early chance on a free-kick from just outside the area but he couldn’t direct the close-range effort around the wall.
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Manchester United got a bit foul-happy, and it lifted the Black Cats to a spell of possession, as Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe both just worked half-chances, with the former off-target and the latter offside. Sunderland would rue those misses, as Manchester United would soon go in front. Just past the half-hour mark, Ibrahimovic produced a moment of brilliance as, with his back to both goal and a double-team, he still managed to find space to turn and shoot, rifling a shot low into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.
The visitors had a shot for another minutes later as Zlatan fed Luke Shaw making a run down the left. The young wing-back fed Marouane Fellaini on the penalty spot, but under heavy pressure from Bryan Ovideo, his shot was blocked and then smothered by Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Seconds later, Oviedo pulled up with a hamstring injury, signaling for a substitution and manager David Moyes was required to oblige.
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It would get worse for the hosts, as just before halftime, Seb Larsson was given a straight red card for going over a tackle, with his studs finding the shin of Ander Herrera, who was lucky to escape unscathed. That left Sunderland a man down, and sealed things for a team increasingly likely to find the drop.
Larsson was furious, taking forever to leave the field and then engaging the fourth official on his way off, but he will have little argument after watching the replay, going over the ball and taking aim at Herrera’s shin with his studs.
The game was immediately out of reach for the home side, as Manchester United took a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the second half restart. Henrikh Mkhitaryan collected a long ball from Luke Shaw, touched it expertly forward, and fired into the bottom corner with a similar finish to Zlatan’s earlier strike. The assist from Shaw was his first Premier League helper in over two years.
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With the game firmly in hand, Jose Mourinho instructed his team to shut it down just past the hour mark, looking to preserve the clean sheet against a disadvantaged opponent. Despite that, they still had some chances down the stretch. Moments after coming on the field, Anthony Martial received a perfect long-ball from Daley Blind and nearly chipped Pickford but couldn’t get enough air under the ball.
They’d get a third with just ticks left on the clock as Rashford played a one-two with Ibrahimovic, receiving the return ball to beat Jason Denayer, and the 19-year-old expertly finished to the far left corner for United’s third. The final few minutes were nothing more than a formality, as Manchester United jumped back over Arsenal into fifth with a four-point gap between them and Champions League play. Sunderland remains 10 points back of safety, their Premier League status dwindling with each failed result.