The first half saw Blackburn race out to an early lead in the 17th minute, when Marvin Emnes set up Danny Graham with an inch-perfect through ball. Chris Smalling was out of line with the rest of Man United’s defenders, holding Graham onside, and the 31-year-old was pinpoint with his far-post strike.
United responded quickly, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s made Emnes’s earlier work look pedestrian. The Armenian’s pass sent Marcus Rashford in on goal, which made rounding Jason Steele quite easy, and the empty-net finish even easier (WATCH HERE).
Following the halftime break, United enjoyed mostly one-way traffic, without anything so much as resembling an end product. Until the hour mark, that is, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba came off the bench to replace Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. 13 minutes after their joint-introduction, Pogba found Ibrahimovic with a long ball over the top, and the big Swede found the back of the net.
Blackburn thought they’d grab a late equalizer, in the 86th minute, but Sergio Romero made a pair of stunning saves in back-to-back fashion, before Anthony Stokes hit home the rebound. The assistant referee correctly ruled him to be offside, though, and United were through.
Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Manchester City Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford United
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea Fulham 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Of the seven FA Cup fifth-rounders played this weekend, Manchester United’s clash with Blackburn Rovers is only the second one to feature goals scored by both sides, and the only one of the bunch to see both sides score before halftime.
Man United went a goal behind after just 17 minutes, when Danny Graham lifted and inch-perfect strike over the outstretched arms of Sergio Romero. Chris Smalling was the United defender responsible for keeping Graham onside, and for allowing him the space to run onto Marvin Emnes‘s through ball.
The deficit was short-lived, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan provided a delightful through ball of his own to unlock the Rovers defense. Marcus Rashford latched onto it, rounded Jason Steele, and slotted the ball into the empty net.
Several key departures have left Sunderland at a severe disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the Premier League field, including Emmanuel Giaccherini and Steven Fletcher. Additionally, manager Sam Allardyce has left the club to take on a new challenge with England, while David Moyes has been tasked with keeping the Black Cats afloat again in 2016/17.
One of the biggest stories to watch over the coming weeks will be how the Black Cats fare defensively. While the team’s attack is lacking depth, the side has much sorting out to do at the back, which is currently led by veteran center back John O'Shea.
U.S. defender DeAndre Yeslin has recently been linked with a move back to the Stadoum of Light after a successful loan spell in 2015/16, however, no move has been made yet to secure the full back.
Cohesion will give the Black Cats an advantage over newcomers: While Sunderland has lost several talents this summer and added nothing up until this point, the team could very well benefit from keeping together much of its core. As long as the squad remains healthy, the players’ familiarity with one another could carry them as high as the top half of the table.
Most likely fight to stay afloat next season: A lack of additions this summer has put Moyes and co. behind the eight ball. While leading scorers Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini remain at the club, Sunderland simply doesn’t have the firepower to contend with even the PL’s mid-table sides like Everton and Southampton.
Last season: Fans of the club were given a thrill (and likely a scare or two) but Sunderland’s escape of relegation at the tail end of 2015/16 was a memorable one for the Black Cats. A 17th place finish isn’t anything to brag about but a stay in the Premier League is all the supporters and squad members will care about.
Star player: Jermain Defoe – At 33 years old, Defoe has aged like fine wine and proven to be a steal for Sunderland since returning to the Premier League in 2015. The Englishman netted 15 goals a season ago, good enough for seventh in England. With the Black Cats undermanned up front, Defoe will be at the center of the team’s attacking duties for the second straight campaign.
Coach’s corner: David Moyes has faced difficult challenges before but 2016/17 could be his biggest yet. With Sunderland failing to make a splash this summer in the transfer market, the new boss will have to overcome several major hurdles with a roster that doesn’t boast a ton of talent. After narrowly escaping relegation in the final matches of the 2015/16 season, Moyes will have to get creative and hopefully bank on spending more in January if the team is to stay up by the end of May 2017.
PST predicts: Sunderland could very well be in a similar position this season as they were a year ago with the team’s lack of additions this summer. With the squad likely forced to rely heavily again on Jermain Defoe up front, it will be up to the veteran Englishman to duplicate his impressive form of a season ago if the Black Cats are to survive again. A finish near the bottom is more than likely barring a big spending spree this winter.
With David Moyes in at his Sunderland office just a week, he’s working tirelessly to bring players in to the Stadium of Light with little time to get deals done.
The drawn out departure of Sam Allardyce has left Moyes in a very difficult position. Sunderland has not brought a single player in this transfer window, having lost Emmanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher, and Danny Graham so far.
“I’ve never been off the telephone,” Moyes says of his first few days on the job. “I’ve done an awful lot of work just trying to find out who could be available and what could happen.”
One of those available players Moyes admitted some interest in, and reports have linked the two. With the knowledge that Adnan Januzaj wants out of Manchester United, Moyes and Sunderland seem like a perfect fit for the 21-year-old.
Things are still fuzzy at this point, but playing a little Sherlock Holmes, one is able to deduce that the Januzaj reports are probably legitimate. The Sunderland Echo reported Monday that Moyes has already tabled official bids for two players, although they did not name those players. Moyes confirmed that bids have been submitted, and even outwardly admitted interest in Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini, but he only did so when a reporter asked about those two specific players by name, and his response was still somewhat generic.
“If anyone of those players want to join us, I would be happy to have them because they are excellent players,” Moyes said of the Manchester United duo. “We are interested, but I am sure a host of other clubs are too.” Fellaini is unlikely to be on Sunderland’s radar given his wages at United, and that somewhat waters down these comments.
Given Moyes’ Manchester United history – where Januzaj played under the Scotsman 32 times, scoring four goals and assisting six more – a serious go at the young Belgian would make plenty of sense. Januzaj has only played sparingly at each stop he’s made, and would likely be an instant addition to the Sunderland starting lineup.