SUNDERLAND 2, MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (Capital One Cup Semi Final 1st Leg)
Sunderland held out for a famous victory over Manchester United, their first in 13 years, as David Moyes’ side stumbled from one failure to another. United were just the latest high profile scalp that the Black Cats have seized at The Stadium of Light under manager Gustavo Poyet after they beat Chelsea in the previous round of the Capital One Cup and Manchester City and Newcastle United in the Barclays Premier League earlier this season.
In contrast, thee consecutive defeats in three different competitions over the New Year period has increased the pressure on the Moyes’ Manchester United – the first time United have suffered three reverses in a row since May 2001.
Manchester United manager David Moyes was certain that United could turn their Capital One Cup fortunes around after a disappointing week for United and was in fighting mood after United’s third defeat in eight days. He questioned some of the refereeing decisions during the game but didn’t spare his own team from criticism.
He said: “The tie’s not over. It’s only the first leg and there’s still 90 minutes to go.
“How the referee can give a free kick for the first goal I don’t know. It was a terrible decision.
“There’s no excuse for our defending once the free kick’s given though.”
Moyes also cast doubt on what appeared to be a soft penalty at first viewing:
He added: “It’s not for me to comment but it’s definately not a penalty kick.”
If there was one bright light in United’s performance on the night it was teenage winger Adnan Januzaj who provided many of United’s brightest moments at the Stadium of Light despite being under attack for much of the night by Sunderland’s well drilled defence.
“I thought Adnan was the best player on the pitch by a long way.” enthused Moyes.
“Adnan will be a top player, but he’s getting harsh treatment at the moment.”
Moyes summed up the night when he sighed:
“That’s just the way things are at the minute.”
United aren’t out of the Capital One Cup yet, but the Black Cats hold a slim 2-1 advantage and will visit Old Trafford, whose carefully cultivated fear-factor is fading away this season, in a fortnight. A bad run of four home defeats in six at home for United will give Sunderland hope of reaching a famous Cup Final under Poyet – their first for over 20 years.
Both sides made seven changes following games played on Sunday, but while Sunderland restored a full strength first team, Moyes was forced into reshuffles after injury to Rio Ferdinand and a red card for Fabio Da Silva in United’s home defeat to Swansea. Ryan Giggs started in midfield and, crucially, neither Wayne Rooney nor Robin Van Persie were fit to feature.
Giggs could in fact have opened the scoring after galloping upfield and sending a crashing shot against the bar via a slight deflection.
Sunderland took the lead in added time at the end of an even but otherwise uneventful first half after two former United players combined to force a goal in off the unfortunate Giggs. Seb Larsson’s free kick was sent back across the area by Wes Brown and Sunderland full back Phil Bardsley hit the opening goal with a deflection off the veteran United man.
United captain Nemanja Vidic levelled the scores in the 52nd minute when he rose unchallenged to convert Tom Cleverley’s cross.
United rallied towards the end with Januzaj proving to be United’s best player but they were hit by another injury blow when Johnny Evans limped off to join United’s growing injury list around the hour mark. Sunderland retook the initiative shortly afterwards in the 64th minute when Cleverley was adjudged to have tripped Adam Johnson in the United area. There referee didn’t spot it but his assistant brought the trip to his attention and the spot kick was duly awarded, Fabio Borini scored the penalty that put United behind again.
Januzaj, United’s best player on the night, went close on several occasions towards the end. He had a first half goal ruled out for offside after an earlier effort had hit Giggs but he could have levelled the tie late in the second half.
Firstly he cut in and sent a shot wide, turned and hit Darren Fletcher’s header wide, and curled and lifted Antonio Valencia’s cross onto the roof of the net. The young winger was under close attention from the home side and couldn’t stop his team from sinking to yet another defeat though.