Colin Randall writes: I’m never sure whether to elevate Bob Chapman to Robert for these post-match essays in Sixer’s place. I always greet him as Bob at matches, but maybe it should be different for Chapman Reports. Robert or Bob, he once again steps boldly into Mr Sixsmith’s shoes to tell us how it really was at Old Trafford, as viewed from the noisy away end. Arrogant Man Utd fans, notably of the faraway-across-the-world variety, reacted with typical contempt to my own report at ESPN (Sunderland=garbage, Poyet’s tactics=very negative) and it was hard to quarrel. Bob sees things in rather less damning terms; for his commendable loyalty and stamina alone, this home-and-away regular really has a strong case for asking SAFC to reimburse his speeding fines …
I was at a loose end the other day and decided to count the number of football grounds I have visited since I started watching in 1964. It came to 75 current grounds and 32 more that have been consigned to history. I usually have a set routine for those I visit regularly. I’ve lost count how many times I have been to Old Trafford. I first visited in 1974 when we were both in the Second Division. It was a great match which we narrowly lost by the odd goal in five.
My current routine for Old Trafford is to have a drink in Altrincham and then get the tram in. This avoids all the matchday traffic and the rip off parking prices. Running late last year I paid £10 for the luxury of parking in someone’s front garden for the League Cup match.
However, I had to change my routine this year as my wife and I decided on a weekend visit to her folks in Lancaster. Driving up the M6 on a Friday evening is usually an absolute disaster these days. With that in mind I decided to follow my Sunderland home match routine and drive up the A1 as far as Ferrybridge and then cut across on the M62.
Not a good decision as I managed to get my 3rd speeding ticket – all three on the A1 in pursuit of watching Sunderland! Although I was annoyed at getting caught I thought that the three points on my driving licence would be a worthwhile trade for the equivalent number of Premier League points if only we could repeat last season’s exploits.
We made a promising start to the match. De Gea made a decent save from Connor Wickham and then Defoe curled another just over the bar. Both these chances fell before Man Utd had settled and my hopes were up that we might be able to get something from the match.
Lee Cattermole was having an influential role breaking up their play and was consistently getting the better of Rooney. Rooney is a quality player and on this showing Cattermole might have a chance of making the next England squad. Cattermole is streets ahead of Colback now that he has learnt to temper his tendency to jump into tackles.
Although United had plenty of possession I felt we were defending well in numbers. Di Maria was poor and Brown was dominating Falcao. Half time came to applause from Sunderland fans and some boos from the home support.
Could we manage another clean sheet, I wondered?
As soon as the second half started I knew we were in trouble. Switching Rooney up front was always going to cause problems. We were defending reasonably well but unable to alleviate the pressure by losing what possession we had, far too easily.
I had my fingers crossed and was checking my watch every minute in the hope that we still might get something, despite being under the cosh. Then in the 68th minute the inevitable happened. I couldn’t understand what all the controversy was about and had assumed that Falcao had dived; I had no idea that it was another kind of refereeing mistake. Once Rooney had dispatched the penalty I knew there was no way back and it was inevitable that he would add a second.
In summary, it was one of those “if only” matches. Had we taken our early chances then we may have come away with a point. We worked hard throughout the match but the better team won. Ever the optimist, I thought we played reasonably well and I remain hopeful that we have just enough to get the points we need, before we face Chelsea on the final day.
Rest assured results at Man Utd and Chelsea last season will not be repeated this year, so we had better make a start at Hull on Tuesday. I shall be venturing up the A1 once again. Let’s hope the points gained are positive football ones only …