M Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith puts the whingeing Scot in charge of Man Utd in his place – perhaps along with another whingeing Scot watching from the stands at the mess his successor is making of things – as he presents the best assessment of last night you’ll find anywhere (I owe him a Christmas present but would have said it anyway) …
A week ago, we played an Aston Villa side who rank among the poorest seen at the Stadium in the past 12 months. We lost to an abysmal goal given away by a central midfield player who does not enjoy the best relationship with the majority of Sunderland supporters.
Seven days later, the said midfielder (Lee Cattermole for those not sure) anchored our side, played an almost perfect game and guided our bottom of the table side to a 2-1 win over an ailing Manchester United side who, on this performance, will finish in the top four – of the league for midtable mediocrity.
That we won was seemingly forgotten or ignored by the national media. It was more a case of the unwinding of a national tragedy (keenly felt in Bridgwater, Bletchley and Billericay) as United lost their third game in a row, the last two to the kind of teams that they usually see off without too much bother.
Very few seemed to give us any praise for what was an intelligent and thoughtful performance which made me realise what a very good head coach we have at the club and one who needs to be persuaded to stay in order to get us back on track as quickly as possible.
He selected the right combination of players – a strong back four with Brown and O’Shea closing up the middle, Bardsley turning in a Man of the Match performance at right back and Marcos Alonso looking like he may solve the problematic left back spot. He was strong and kept his line well and, on this showing, was far better than Dossena.
In midfield, Cattermole did as Cattermole does, without a foul or a stumble, enabling Ki to cruise around the pitch, collecting the ball and using it effectively.
He was aided by a splendid showing from Larsson, who never stopped running all night. He tackled well, backed off when he had to – one of Poyet’s principal rules is not to jump into tackles – and showed all the energy and commitment that we expect to see from him on a regular basis. The man behind me (not a regular in that seat) thought he was lazy and backed off too much. Well, each to his own, I suppose.
The Poyet master stroke came when he introduced Johnson for Giaccherini early in the second half. The Italian had flitted in and out of the game; the Easington man took hold of it. His sharp, incisive run into the United box drew an unnecessary tackle from Cleverley and the assistant referee confirmed that it was a penalty. Borini dispatched it with a calmness and self-assurance that bodes well for his burgeoning career. He could be a very good player and a very important one for us this season.
The use of substitutes is one area where Poyet excels. He seems to have a far greater feel for the game than O’Neill (who was as bad as Bruce at making subs) and Di Canio, who just seemed to hoy players on without thinking at all. Altidore, for the disappointing Fletcher after 70 minutes, meant that United could not afford to push too far forward when they looked for an equaliser that never, ever looked likely.
Now we have to make sure that this performance is replicated at Craven Cottage on Saturday. It’s absolutely no good winning games like this and then capitulating to one of our rivals. The team we turn out on Saturday will be very similar to this one and needs to play in the same way, with vigour and honesty, because that is how you get out of relegation trouble.
We guffawed as mealy mouthed Moyes came on the radio last night and complained about the referees and how United get nothing. “The free kick for the first one shouldn’t have been given,” said the Red Supremo. It was and you defended it as badly as we sometimes do; great ball by Larsson, Brown unmarked at the far post and keeper scrambling across his line. It’s a shame that Bardsley couldn’t claim it. It’s also the type of goal that a team at the bottom concedes.
He didn’t agree with the penalty either, surprise, surprise. “The linesman would have to see through Patrice Evra to give that” was his reaction. No observations on the excellence of Johnson’s run or the feeble attempt at a tackle by the equally feeble Cleverley. But when you are rapidly becoming Mr Paranoid of M16 0RA it’s important not to let the facts get in the way of a rattling good moan.
Can we do it? Yes we can as Gus the Builder might say. They are not the United of old and are certainly not invincible at Old Trafford – as Everton, Newcastle, Spurs and Swansea will testify. Wins against Fulham and Southampton are more important though – but I would happily settle for beating these two and drawing at The Theatre of Moans.
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