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On This Day (2 Feb 2002): Pressure grows on Reid as the Lads lose at Old Trafford!

As a tough 2001/2002 season unfolded, we were only three points off the relegation zone as we headed to Manchester to face the reigning Premier League champions

Sunderland took the Premier League by storm after promotion in 1999, but after two seventh-placed finishes, the third season was proving a more difficult challenge altogether.

Things hadn’t been helped by the loss of talismanic midfielder Don Hutchison early in the campaign, but after sitting fifth at the end of September, we’d hit some indifferent form, dropping at one point to fifteenth.

Our 3-0 Boxing Day win at Blackburn saw us back in ninth place, but a 5-0 defeat at Ipswich was followed by home draws against Aston Villa and Fulham, a 1-0 away defeat to Everton and a 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough.

Subsequently, the vocal element of the support base had decided to take out their frustrations on a man who’d done a superb job since arriving at Roker Park almost seven years previously.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough X
The Boro game had been feisty with Festa sent off just after half time, but the lads went down 1-0.

As Sunderland prepared to take on Manchester United at Old Trafford, Reid said:

It hasn’t been nice these last few days after the Middlesbrough defeat and I can’t say I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve had worse things happen to me.

I know the fans have their frustrations but there’s still a silent majority who know the club is in good heart and they’re backing me.

You’re only as good as your last game and we got beat, but I’ve had stick here before and it’s been worse.

As long as the fans keep supporting the players - and they have been - then there’s no problem. I’m the man who takes the ultimate responsibility and that’s part and parcel of the job.

We all need to rally round.

When I first took charge of this club, there were 12,000 supporters who turned up to watch and the other night, there were 45,000.

Even though we’re going through a sticky patch, the club is in great shape, and that’s a fact.

We just need a bit of luck, a bit of magic to change things round.

The recent run of form had seen Sunderland drop to 13th place, three points off the relegation zone, but reinforcements had been sought.

Jason McAteer and Claudio Reyna were relatively new additions to the squad, and an international defender in the shape of the Swede Joachim Björklund was due to make his debut at Old Trafford, but compatriot Stefan Schwarz was out through suspension and young midfielder Paul Thirlwell was ruled out through injury.

Soccer - FA Barclaycard Premiership - Sunderland v Everton
Reyna had made an instant impact after signing from Rangers
Photo by Steve Mitchell/EMPICS via Getty Images

If Reid was hoping thatplaying away from the Stadium of Light would provide an ideal opportunity to get back on track, that notion was undone after just six minutes when Phil Neville netted to put the Reds in front.

While Kevin Phillips had experienced a quieter season than the two that had gone before, he was still making his mark with ten goals for the season at this point, and he levelled on thirteen minutes after being set up by McAteer to provide a welcome boost.

However, ten minutes later, David Beckham powered a free kick past Thomas Sorensen.

The offence had taken place on the edge of the box; however, at the time, any dissent over the award of a free kick could be punished by moving the ball ten yards forward. Referee Rob Styles took umbrage at Sunderland’s protestations, and Beckham scored from close range.

Shortly afterwards, Ruud van Nistelrooy made it 3-1 with a left-footed shot on the turn and the Dutchman made it four just from the spot just before half time, after Stan Varga had upended Ryan Giggs.

That was that for the scoring, and although sub Julio Arca forced a good save from Fabian Barthez, United, led by the imperious Roy Keane, were just too good, and Peter Reid was left wondering just how he was going to turn the ship around.

Manchester Utd v Sunderland Photo by Phil Noble - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

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