Lee Cattermole was man of the match. This is the best way to sum up a horrible performance from United were, for the second time in a year, their midfield was dominated by Cattermole. They can be happy with a point as Sunderland were head and shoulders above their opponents. An abysmal midfield and defensive performance left the front three standing waiting for service that wasn’t going to arrive. The three man defence was tied into knots at almost comical levels. It is difficult to comprehend that a, ‘system’ is being established as the majority of the team do not seem to know their role, at all. More quality needs purchased and injected into a lethargic side that are notoriously easy to play against. So how did United’s players fare…?
De Gea: Thankfully, new tactics do not affect the position of the keeper. De Gea again was the only stable member of the back four and he was helpless to save a great header from Jack Rodwell. We can only imagine how frustrating it must be watching the mess that is United’s defence unfold before you. A move back to a four man defence cannot come quick enough for David.
Valencia: Possesses the style of play to perform as a wingback. Valencia is quick, strong and used to be creative. The one trick pony’s favourite move worked as he made United’s goal with the usual low, driven cross. Valencia is far too one footed which makes marking him a simple job. Other than the goal assist he was absent as a creative threat and defensively the confusion between the wider CB’s and wing backs is leaving United exposed in almost every attack. A good option as a wingback but he should not be thee option.
Jones: Small individual battles that Jones wins are no longer enough to justify his lack of intelligence as a footballer. He is completely unable, at this time, to function on the left of a back three. He was dragged across the defence, down the flanks and into midfield leaving the backline in tatters. As poor as Jones was at LCB he looked a lot better, yet again, at the heart of the defence. This is an indication of how he would excel in a back four but if 3-5-2 is too persist Jones has to play in the middle of the three or not at all.
Smalling: Having a worse game than he did last week is an achievement but Smalling completed this with aplomb. It may be harsh but the only word that springs to mind about Smalling’s performance is hopeless. His positioning is awful and as the centre of the back three it is vitally important that he organises the backline but instead he oversees chaos. Having literally no experience of playing this system can be used as an excuse but there is no evidence of any adaptability and he should not continue to play in this formation.
Blackett: An improvement on Smalling, Blackett looks a lot calmer in possession and doesn’t get dragged out of position quite as often. The most disappointing aspect of his performance yesterday was passing. Up until now, we have seen great passing from deep by Blackett, which has been a creative outlet for an uncreative team. Every long ball was over hit and even quick balls into midfield were misplaced. Such careless passing has to be discarded as it brings unnecessary pressure onto the team.
Young: Any early pre-season excitement about Ashley Young as a wing back is dead and buried. Defensively he is completely clueless and going forward his crossing, dribbling and energy are so poor. Quite what Young is doing starting in a Man United team after 3 horrible years is beyond me. His pathetic dive, which he rightly got booked for, summed up his game. With Rojo available and Shaw on the mend, one can hope that we don’t see too much more of Ashley Young in a Man United shirt.
Cleverley: What more can be said, really? Cleverley is the personification of average but he didn’t even reach those lofty standards yesterday. His passing was atrocious, tackling was nonexistent and he brought no life or energy to a midfield void of it. The sooner Cleverley moves on the better.
Fletcher: Criticising Fletcher feels like bullying a small child but sentimentality must be removed when analysing his performances. For the second game in a row, he tried and tried but undoubtedly failed. Loosing possession is criminal for a midfielder and Fletcher gave the ball away easily too much in the first half. United can’t afford to have Fletcher starting for them and he will be dominated when he comes up against quality midfielders such as Toure, Matic and Gerard.
Mata: On face value, Mata had an awful afternoon at the Stadium of Light. He was surrounded on the rare occasions he got possession and his set plays were not good enough. For me, players like Mata need space and when there are no threats from the wings opponents can shut down the number ten without taking much of a risk. Juan still managed to get his 7th goal in 8 games for United so once quality wingers arrive, we can expect Mata’s influence on games to grow.
Van Perise: A frustrated figure on his first game back. United were incapable of getting him into the game. Strikers depend on service but the team never worked the ball to Van Persie in an advanced area once. A couple of exchanges with Rooney came to nothing but we can be assured of Robin’s contribution growing once the team is improved this week.
Rooney: His plight is similar to Van Persie’s. If a striker gets no service he rarely scores, it is as simple as that. Rooney dropped deeper and deeper in an attempt to gain possession but this disjointed the attack and only left Van Persie more isolated. A smart free kick in the first half was the closest he came but it was another toothless day for the captain.
M Keane: Having to replace Smalling meant he was always going to be an improvement. He positioned himself well and was marshalled well by Jones playing in the centre. A decent squad player to have but perhaps another loan would be wise if United are too bring in another centre back.
Januzaj: Played in central midfield for the first time and was a vast improvement on Fletcher and Cleverley, although that was an easy feat. Adnan was brilliant in possession and managed to run forward in an attempt to actually create a chance. The fact that he has to be used as a central midfielder is an indictment of how weak United currently are in that position. When United finally tick this season, Januzaj will have a big part to play. He really is special.
Welbeck: Selling Danny would be ludicrous. He demonstrated exactly why United need to keep him. As soon as he was introduced, some life was immediately injected into the attack. He stretched Sunderland’s centre backs and created space so United could play a little higher up the pitch which led to their best chance in the second half when Young was sent through by Welbeck himself in a quick counter attack. Let’s hope his inclusion over Chicharito means that Danny will be staying at Old Trafford.