Match Report: Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United - That Old Familiar Feeling

Laurence Griffiths

Kevin Ball's reign as head coach looks to have come to and end with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United at the Stadium of Light.

Kevin Ball's side lost to Manchester United 2-1 at home in what is in all likelihood is final game in charge of the club. It certainly wasn't short of incident as things started brilliantly, but ended sourly.

With little under five minutes on the clock Sunderland took advantage of a timid opening to the game by taking the lead with the first significant chance of the game.

Good hustle by Emanuele Giaccherini down the right wing allowed he to put a decent cross into the area where Jozy Altidore was waiting. It never made it to the American as Phil Jones cleared as far as Nemanja Vidic, who fluffed his lines straight to Gardner to slam the ball into the bottom corner past David De Gea from nine yards out

The expected tidal wave of attack from the visitors in reply never really materialised following the opener. I'm sure some commentators will put that down to Manchester United's poor form or some such rubbish, not taking into account it was actually us who were simply playing better than them.

Nani had a pair of strikes which he'll feel he could have done better with. One from distance which flashed past the post while the other was when he found himself unmarked just seven yards from goal. Attempting a side-footed volley as opposed to leathering it, the ball ended up closer to the corner flag than the top corner of Keiren Westwood's goal.

We went on to create our own chances in the first half too, and had we scored any of them you'd have said we were good value for extending our lead.

Craig Gardner -- who was full of industry and hard work in the half -- won the ball inside the United half and as he headed towards goal, indecision allowed Phil Jones to recover and make at goal-saving tackle inside the area. Unfortunately Gardner seemed in two minds about playing the ball to Jozy Altidore in the middle or to go himself, in the end neither materialised.

Things calmed down somewhat for ten minutes or so while Adnan Januzaj fired one wide from the edge of the area, while another impressive midfielder for us, Emanuele Giaccherini, fired a freekick from the very edge of the area straight at the wall.

Giaccherini would have easily deserved a goal for his performance, and on two occasions he could -- and should -- have had one in the first half.

Firstly after Ki had slipped Adam Johnson away down the left hand side, he in turn crossed into the middle where the Italian had a free header stopped superbly by De Gea. A great chance, and an even better save.

A second and possibly easier chance fell to "Wearside Giac" as the half was closed out. Johnson once again the provider as he wriggled through the United defence to pull back for Giaccherini, who blazed over the bar under no pressure.

David Moyes' side continued to press without any real threat to Westwood's goalmouth, and Sunderland very much the better side and good value for the lead as Chris Foy blew his halftime whistle.

Adnan Januzaj in the first half didn't really live up to the hype which surrounds him, but it was he who was central to the visitors attacking play as the second half unfolded.

Firstly booked for a horrendous and shameful dive inside the Sunderland area, secondly however he bagged the equaliser on 54-minutes.

Patrice Evra broke down the left, crossed low to the penalty spot where the young Belgian was arriving late into the area and was able to finish first time beyond a helpless Westwood.

Heads seemed to drop from then on as the visitors took control of the game, and the lead. Once again through Januzaj.

Nani it was with the cross, and while John O'Shea probably thought he'd deflected it away to safety, instead it fell plum for Januzaj who fired on the volley across Westwood and into the bottom corner. A moment to savour for him, a moment of sourness for Sunderland.

Sunderland seemed set to try their best to contain the waves of attack, however it stifled any attacking threat for us, with long balls aimed more hopefully than precisely at Jozy Altidore, who'd begun to cut a forlorn figure in a lone striker role.

Everything just seemed to become more laboured for Sunderland, while United sat back and were happy enough knowing we seemed to run out of ideas. Connor Wickham, Ji Dong-Won and Seb Larsson were introduced in attempt to liven things up but there was little reward or spark initially.

It took until the 83rd minute for Sunderland to begin to look anything like threatening again, when Larsson pinged a Lee Cattermole crossfield ball back into the area. Alas, there was nobody meet it.

If anything it should have been 3-1. In the 88th minute Robin Van Persie -- who'd been unusually quiet -- got through one-on-one with Westwood and in the end didn't even test the Mancunian-born Irishman as he toe-poked wide.

Five minutes of added time wasn't enough to inspire any sort of chance of note. A series of corners, which included an appearance in the United area from Keiren Westwood, were about as close as we came to doing anything.

For as good as Sunderland were in the first half, they were just as poor in the second half.

As fans we're usually immediately looking for a scapegoat in these situations, but there wasn't really anyone's fault. Bally did everything right in selection and tactics, and the players followed through in the first half at least.

However the visitors superiority in class proved to be the difference. We tried, we failed. We won and lost as a team and a club today.

You can't call games against Manchester United "must win" really, but the most depressing stat-line of the night doesn't come from on the pitch (where we were thoroughly dominated), it comes from the table. Being rock bottom after this many games with just a single point on the board has happened on only five occasions. Only twice, have teams avoided relegation.

We'll have more match reaction in our Match Stream, HERE.

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