Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 victory over relegation bound Sunderland, with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford. It was an easy victory for Champions League chasing United as the home side were reduced to ten men following the dismissal of Sebastian Larsson for a challenge on Ander Herrera just before half time. Thirteen minutes earlier – fellow countryman Ibrahimovic opened the scoring with a superb strike past Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland goal.
Just after half time, Mkhitaryan pulled down a Luke Shaw pass with ease, before dispatching a left footed drive in to the bottom corner. United dominated proceedings and pushed for a third, with Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba going close, however it was substitute Rashford who notched United’s final goal of the afternoon to round off a convincing display.
Former United boss David Moyes, will need to produce a miracle in order for his side to scrape back the ten point difference between safety and relegation – although the Black Cats do indeed have one game in hand over Hull City. Post match, Moyes was quick to criticise referee Craig Pawson [for the sending off of Larsson], however – United were on top even prior to the sending off, which ultimately ended the game as a contest.
Turning point for Shaw?
Jose Mourinho felt that, even at 0-0, United were in control of the match as he saw his side close the gap on Manchester City in 4th, who had beaten Hull City 3-1 on Saturday. The Portuguese was full of praise for Luke Shaw, who had been the recipient of some major criticism from his manager following the 1-1 draw with Everton in mid week. Mourinho had suggested that the left back played with “the brain” of his mentor as the United boss barked instructions at him on the touchline.
Shaw has had a tough season, following his recovery from a leg break suffered at PSV in September 2015, with Mourinho often calling him out for a performance or more worryingly – his attitude. United’s number 23 put in a fine display down the left flank and was unlucky not to pick up two assists [Mkhitaryan converted superbly just after halftime], with captain Marouane Fellaini failing to connect to a superb cross from Shaw. He was replaced mid-way through the second half, as a precaution, following Didier Ndong accidentally standing on his right ankle. However, this could well be the turning point for the youngster who had looked like he had fallen significantly down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic continues to turn back the clock
Ibrahimovic has now scored 28 goals so far this season for Manchester United, with 17 in the league. Juan Mata, who is currently recovering from groin surgery, is the closest player to him with 10 goals. It is safe to say that, despite the high number of home draws United have had this season, United would have struggled without their top marksman – who has now hit 250 goals since turning 30 years old – a great record for a superb professional who could still play at the top level for a number of seasons yet.
The Swede was voted man of the match, although wasn’t anywhere near his influential best, for presumably his opening goal – a powerful right footed drive having shifted the ball away from the helpless Billy Jones and past Pickford. A great goal out of nothing, which put United on the path to victory. He could well have scored another in the second half, but was thwarted by Pickford in the Sunderland goal. United’s top scorer provided the assist for substitute Marcus Rashford to drive home the third. Post match, Ibrahimovic likened himself to Benjamin Button, having been “born old and will die young”. Many United fans will hope that the “youngster” continues his life story at Old Trafford next season.
Sergio Romero gets a start as De Gea misses the game with a hip injury
The biggest talking point prior to the match was the fact that David De Gea had been left out of the match day squad. Many reds felt that he could well have been dropped as his head was turned, again, due to the reported interests of Real Madrid in the week. This is reminiscent of the start of the 2015/16 season, when Louis van Gaal left the Spaniard out for a number of games due to the flirtation with Spanish club.
It worked out well for United fans in one of the most farcical transfer dealings of all time – with De Gea remaining at the club, before signing a new four year contract. Post match, Mourinho revealed that his number one had sustained a hip injury, which is why he missed the fixture and should be back for Chelsea at home. Time will tell if indeed this was a legitimate reason for his absence.