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Rooney slams dismal United as Sunderland hopes boosted


Manchester United

By TO A soundtrack that was seldom heard during the manager’s time at West Ham, Sunderland took a sizeable stride towards Premier League safety with a spirited victory over Manchester United.

The chant of “Big Sam Allardyce” echoed round the stadium as the home faithful celebrated this most encouraging of wins by the side who started the day second bottom in the division. And they had good cause to laud Allardyce’s contribution. Not least because both Sunderland goals were down to players he had bought during the January transfer window. And both – as is the Big Sam way – came from set-pieces.

It was, so history insisted, the first time that Sunderland had beaten United at the Stadium of Light in a league game. But as accolades go, that is one rapidly diminishing in stature. Because this was another depressing, dispiriting, demoralising performance by Louis van Gaal’s side. “Not good enough,” was how a depressed-sounding Wayne Rooney summed things up. It was by far his most accurate contribution to the afternoon.

For a side with pretensions of a top-four finish, things could not have begun more dismally for United. After three minutes, Matteo Darmian brought down Patrick van Aanholt in the no-man’s land to the left of the visitors’ defence. After awarding a free-kick, the referee, Andre Marriner, did not appear to notice that Wahbi Khazri advanced the ball a good few yards from where the offence was committed.

But still he seemed too distant to cause problems. However, when Jermain Defoe stepped over the ball on the edge of the area, failing in the attempt to back-heel it on its way, Khazri’s kick went past everyone into the far side of the goal.

After half an hour, the very definition of the hospital pass by Jesse Lingard led to Darmian receiving lengthy treatment following a collision with Khazri.

After he went off clutching a dislocated shoulder, the appropriately named Martin Love came on for a Valentine’s Eve debut.

On 39 minutes Anthony Martial, yet again United’s stand-out player, dribbled in from the left, his inside pass finding its way to Juan Mata. The Spaniard fizzed a low, bouncing shot goalwards, Vito Mannone dived to save, but Martial was first to the rebound, chipping the ball deftly into the corner of the net.

The winner came with eight minutes to go when the excellent newcomer Khazri took a corner. As the ball swung in, the other new arrival, the centre-back Lamine Kone, evaded all his markers and headed with some ferocity down past De Gea, with the ball deflecting off the United goalkeeper.

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