Poor old Pete Sixsmith can barely remember what it is like to write about an encouraging losing performance by Sunderland, let alone any kind of winning one. With a little help from Craig Pawson, Manchester United strolled to victory. And Sixer saw nothing, beyond Jordan Pickford’s accomplished goalkeeping and some sparks of effort and drive from Ndong and Cattermole, to persuade him we will even reach 25 points …
Another match, another dismal defeat with no goals, no excitement and no hope for the future. Throw in an awful decision by a referee who appeared to favour the visitors throughout the game and it is well nigh impossible to drag any positives out of this.
But there are a couple. There was another highly competent performance by Jordan Pickford who looks every inch a Premier League player and there was an energetic, if slightly flawed performance from Didier Ndong. Other than that ….. nothing.
Zero, zilch a big fat 0 as we slip out of the Premier League with barely a whimper.
Of course United are better than us. They have zillions and can afford to squander it on players who do not make the grade. We have millions and can’t and we consistently waste it on players who can’t even assert themselves in a poor Premier League side. Of the team that played against Manchester United yesterday, how many will turn out against Sheffield United next season? Pickford will be sold, Denayer will go back to Manchester City and any of the others whose contracts have run out will, hopefully, be seeking fresh employers.
That would leave Oviedo, who did well until his hamstring went, Cattermole, who at least moved around the pitch – but not quickly enough to mark Mkhitaryan for the second goal, Ndong who might make a player in a decent side and Rodwell who, if he had any self-respect, would tear up his contract and take a job exercising the donkeys on his native Southport beach.
A little over a year ago, we made Louis van Gaal’s position at Old Trafford untenable when goals from Wahbi Khazri (remember him? Little winger, ran at defenders and gave us a bit of spark) and Lamine Kone, described by me as “the new Charlie Hurley” after his towering header won the game for us, started a run which saw Sam Allardyce’s team escape the drop.
During that run we saw passion, skill, a distinct pattern and a desire to succeed from the players. This time, there is none of that. Khazri couldn’t even get his usual 10 minute cameo while Kone was to blame for giving Ibrahimovic so much room that the Swedish striker had time to pick his spot for the first goal. Neither will be at the Stadium of Light next season.
It looks as if the manager will be. He can write this season off now and stop sending out patronising press releases which suggest that we still have a chance. Our only realistic targets are to reach 25 points, a purely arbitrary total set by me, and to try and finish above Middlesbrough – or at least beat them at the Riverside. Neither seems attainable at the moment as we cannot score and are incapable of keeping a clean sheet at the other end.
Yesterday was dismal. We never looked like scoring and always looked likely to concede. United went through the motions and picked us off at will, taking advantage of slack marking to score the two goals that won them the game. Both were well taken by top class players, both were badly defended by barely adequate players.
By this time we were down to 10 men after Craig Pawson made a bid for the “Graham Poll Memorial Trophy For Making An Ass of Himself Against Manchester United” by sending off Seb Larsson for a tackle on Ander Herrera which at worst, was a yellow. Larsson went for the ball, his momentum took him into Herrera and they collided. Not a great challenge, but there was no intent and a yellow would have sufficed. Alas, Mr Pawson, no doubt thinking of the opprobrium that would be heaped on him by Jose Mourinho and the sycophantic press pack that follow United, decided that sending a Sunderland player off was perfectly acceptable as they were going down anyway.
And so ends another weekend. It saw glorious weather on the Roker Riviera which encouraged me to leave home early and take a brisk walk through the marina and then along the lower promenade at Roker all the way along to Seaburn.
The previous day, I had seen relegation threatened Worcester City (exiled at Bromsgrove FC) make a valiant effort to grab all three points against Curzon Ashton but only getting one. This was after a lovely visit to my 94-year-old aunt in nearby Redditch which had lifted my spirits considerably.
Alas, the spirits were back down in my boots after Sunday.
Only three more home games to go and a trip to Middlesbrough and then a curtain can be drawn over this wretched 10 months.
Whether the same curtain can be drawn over David Moyes tenure as Sunderland manager remains to be seen. None of the others that Ellis Short has appointed would have survived this disastrous campaign.