A disappointing result. But was it a disappointing performance? The parliament of Sunderland fans is divided …
The mood on platform two of Sunderland’s charmless station, a strong contender for any worst mainline terminus award, was not quite the same as it had been in row 30 of the East Stand.
“Very disappointing,” said one supporter. “Bruce got the team wrong – we should have gone at them,” said another. On the train, a third declared our performance against Manchester United, a formidable power in world football, to have been poor.
Back at the Stadium of Light, the choice for Sixer’s Sevens, Pete Sixsmith’s seven-word verdict on each game, had been between “Good performance that fell a little short” and ” “Good performance bodes well for next season”.
Fans, even fans of the same club, see different games.
I can see the argument that Steve Bruce might have started with both Darren Bent, who looked subdued but was in fact denied decent service throughout, and Kenwyne Jones, who did just about enough when he arrived late to suggest he could have posed problems.
It is also obvious that United are not the team they were. Chelsea are not the most likeable club in the Premier League but will deservedly win the title. Paul Scholes, nearer the end than the beginning of his top-flight career, was United’s man of this match. But without him or Rooney, busy, threatening and popping up all over the place, they would have looked good but hardly exceptional.
But Sunderland played with passion, purpose and flashes of real skill and would not have been greatly flattered by a draw, even though the hapless Berbatov went through a pre-substitution spell in which he appeared to miss an open goal every four-and-a-half minutes.
Phil Bardsley, possibly making his last home appearance for us, had a good game. Cana’s tackles were hard, successful and fair, Campbell had an impressive second half, Malbranque’s trickery and tenacity were as pleasing on the eye as his corners were ugly. And United won only because Nani’s shot, heading wide of the post, took a decisive deflection (or seemed to, to everyone watching the trajectory of the ball from where I was sitting – if Nani curved it and it hit the net without touching another soul, I am happy to record as much).
We were not quite good enough. But we were not poor. Sixer and Joan Dawson were both right with their rival verdicts.