So it wasn't the red card
David Moyes has said Seb Larsson's sending off can't be used as an excuse for yesterday's defeat to Manchester United. Sunderland were already a goal behind by the time the Swedish midfielder was given his marching orders just before half time.
And whilst Sunderland may yet appeal the red, Moyes has said the referee isn't to blame for his side's present predicament telling the Shields Gazette,
I don't want to in anyway blame referees because our position is where we are, we are bottom of the league.
Correct of course, but the under-fire Sunderland manager would hardly have dared risk further press coverage by blasting Craig Pawson after spending last week in the headlines for his off-field behaviour.
In truth, Moyes likely got in quick to diminish accusations he had a ready-made excuse for the manner of yesterday's defeat. There's no shame in losing to Manchester United, but the manner of the Red Devils' stroll was pitiful from a Sunderland perspective.
Because this was quite simply a game from which the side at the bottom of the pile had to get something to give the club a chance of staying in the Premier League. Those that took to the pitch couldn't even muster enough effort to give the illusion they cared much.
So if it wasn't Larsson's red card, what was the reason the Black Cats rolled over for Mourhino's men?
1. You can't compete with Manchester United with ten men let's face it - David Moyes
Regardless of the decision, trying to play against a Manchester United side who were unbeaten in their previous twenty league appearances was always going to be nigh on impossible with eleven men on the pitch, never mind ten, as Moyes admitted:
I just think a couple of decisions went against us. It's hard enough to play against United with 11 men never mind 10
2. Terminal defensive lapses - David Moyes
There's two fundamental problems with this Sunderland team - they concede bad goals and they can't score any. Apart from that......
David Moyes said he was disappointed with how Manchester United were allowed the time and space to score their three, telling the Sunderland Echo:
We didn’t get tight enough on either of the goals. The first goal was quite easy to defend; he controls it, plays into his feet and turns. It is a really good finish from distance but you would have hoped for a block. The second goal was a killer just after half-time. We could have done more to prevent that.
3. Injuries have destroyed confidence - Victor Anichebe
They're not bad lads really, they've just had a tough time of it. Or so Victor Anichebe told the Evening Chronicle:
I swear it’s not a bad group of guys, the quality is there there’s just no confidence
The thing is that around November and December, we were doing well, but injuries came in, I got injured, players that we thought were coming back didn’t do so
These aren’t excuses, even if I’m out someone should come in and fill in, but it’s been difficult.
Be it a lack of confidence, a lack of belief or a lack of desire, there's clearly something fundamentally wrong when professional footballers take to the pitch in front of nearly 44,000 people, with a global TV audience tuned in to watch one of the world's biggest clubs, and engineer themselves into being marked for throw-ins.
4. It was only a matter of time - Sunderland AFC
Even the club's official twitter account gave up like the rest of us. During the game @SunderlandAFC tweeted their own summation of how pointless the afternoon turned out,
It was quickly deleted but for an 'official' social media account to be so down on their own team after just half an hour is pretty damning.
5. Moyes has set the mood, and it isn't healthy - Kevin Kilbane
Ex-Sunderland player and current pundit Kevin Kilbane believes that Sunderland have seen the worst of David Moyes this season, writing for the BBC the former midfielder said:
Moyes has been very negative about the club's situation too, which is very unlike him. Right from the start, I got the sense he was unhappy with his situation.
But with reference to number 1 above,
I thought he would stop them shipping goals because, having worked with him at Preston and Everton, when things went against us and we did not play well he would make sure we always knew how to be solid and hard to beat.
It hasn't worked has it.