MAN UNITED 0, SUNDERLAND 1
It was the briefest of honeymoons for Ryan Giggs, Manchester United’s interim manager.
After the euphoria of the emphatic win against Norwich City on his managerial debut, Giggs saw his side slump to defeat at Old Trafford against Sunderland, a side battling relegation.
Sebastian Larsson’s first-half goal piled on more misery for the Reds who suffered a seventh home league defeat. Not since 1973/73, when United were relegated from the top division, have United suffered as many home league losses.
It was also Sunderland’s first win at Old Trafford since 1968 and, ironically, it was 46 years to the day since that victory as they took a giant stride towards achieving safety.
It was a poor and disjointed display from the Reds as all the ills from David Moyes’ spell as manager resurfaced as they toiled against the Black Cats.
And not even the return of Robin van Persie after injury – he was a second-half substitute – could help transform their fortunes.
There were no excuses from Giggs who admitted his side didn’t perform to their best on the day.
Giggs said: “We lacked quality and concentration in the final third of the season. “In the first half we put in some decent crosses, especially from Ashley Young, but didn’t have enough players in the box.
“We had enough possession in the second half, but lacked the quality final pass. If we had scored once, I am sure we would have got more goals.”
Giggs added he was baffled saying the team showed quality against Norwich saying: “Whether it is a lack of confidence or concentration, I don’t know.”
He also pointed out it is a mystery why United have struggled at Old Trafford yet have such an impressive record on their travels.
Giggs, who gave Sunderland credit for their victory, continued: “In other seasons we have had wave after wave of attacks and always sensed we would score, but somehow it has not happened this season.
“Against quality opposition you need consistent performances, and we have not had them this season.”
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, whose side recently won at Chelsea and drew away to Manchester, said: “We deserve to stay up after that run of results. Now it would be a shame and crazy if we didn’t.”
Giggs made five changes from the side which beat Norwich City 4-0 one week earlier.
There were starts for Juan Mata, Javier Hernandez, Nani, Ashley Young and Darren Fletcher who replaced the injured Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia, Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa.
Sunderland, unchanged for a fourth consecutive match, made a bright start as they looked to continue their bid for Premier League survival.
United had to rely on half chances as Sunderland defender John O’Shea almost sliced a clearance from Michael Carrick’s cross into his own goal, Nani fired just over and Patrice Evra could only direct a header straight at keeper Vito Mannone.
Just when United were beginning to become more of a threat, Sunderland snatched the lead after half an hour when Connor Wickham cut back a cross for Larsson to fire home shot low past keeper David De Gea.
Mata forced a diving save from Mannone on the stroke of half time as United sought an equaliser.
Vidic had a chance to equalise early in the second half, but headed wide before Giggs made his first change with little over six minutes played when Nani made way for Adnan Januzaj.
It continued to be frustrating for United who struggled to find a way back into the game due to Sunderland’s stoic and often heroic defending.
Dutchman van Persie and Welbeck replaced Mata and Young midway through the second half as Giggs looked for new attacking ideas.
But it was Sunderland who almost doubled their lead with 18 minutes left when Fabio Borini combined with Jozy Altidore whose cut back was met by substitute Emanuele Giaccherini whose shot struck the far upright.
United continued to carve out chances, but were let down by woeful finishing from Welbeck and Hernandez. Sunderland were denied by the woodwork for a second time when Fabio Borini cut in from the right and curled a shot which struck the crossbar as disillusioned United fans headed for the exit long before the final whistle.