Helped by two goals from Red Devil legend Wayne Rooney, host Manchester United outlasted Sunderland 2-0 in a league match at Old Trafford on Saturday. Manchester United earned a much-needed win in the race for the top four in the Premier League.
The match began with back-and-forth play, both teams getting their chances. Sunderland kept their discipline defensively against the more talented United side, and found good opportunities when they decided to attack.
In fact, the first real chance of the match came on a Sunderland shot in the sixth minute by attacking midfielder Connor Wickham, who found himself open on a dribble at the edge of the box. Keeper David De Gea was able to get his hand on the low shot and knock it away, keeping the score at 0-0.
United had a great chance to score in the 25th minute, when winger Ashley Young hit a hard shot that was bound for the right corner of the net, but Sunderland defender (and former Red Devil) John O’Shea nicked the attempt with an outstretched leg. The O’Shea deflection caused the shot to rattle off the crossbar and bounce out to keep the score at 0-0.
The first half ended at a scoreless draw despite the Louis Van Gaal’s side controlling the match. United had the lion’s share of the possession at 71 percent.
The second half began as the first ended. The home side had the better of the chances while Gus Poyet’s Sunderland side defended and counter-attacked. A breakthrough finally came in the 62nd minute when United striker Radamel Falcao was pulled down hard in the box by former-Red-Devil O’Shea, who had saved a goal earlier in the match. A penalty was awarded for the hard foul on a scoring chance, and a red card was given to Sunderland defender Wes Brown in a case of mistaken identity.
Forward Rooney converted the penalty in the 66th minute (delayed because of the confusion with the red card), hitting it low and hard to the left corner and just past the outstretched hands of keeper Costel Pantilimon. Pantilimon guessed the correct direction but had no chance of stopping the perfectly place penalty kick that moved the score to 1-0.
Following the penalty kick, United were able to hold most of the possession and dominated the match against the undermanned Sunderland side. Rooney added a second goal to move the score to 2-0 and put the game away in the 83rd minute. After a barrage of Red Devil chances Rooney headed in a rebound off of a save from Pantilimon, who had just knocked away a shot from midfielder Adnan Januzaj. With the goal Rooney became the first play in history to score 10 or more goals in 11 straight Premier League seasons. After starting the match with back-and-forth play, United were able to take control of the league matchup and cruised to the win.
United came into the match just one point clear of Southampton in the “rat race” for the fourth spot in the league, as manager Van Gaal put it to reporters. The win pushed the Red Devils past Arsenal into third place on the league table. The race to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League is becoming a hard-fought battle with Arsenal and Manchester United attempting to hold off Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
The Red Devils improved their standing with the victory, while Sunderland remain just three points clear of the relegation zone. Manchester United will go on to play Newcastle United in a league match on March 4. Sunderland will play Hull City in a league match on March 3.