Sunderland trudge away from Old Trafford today on the end of a 3-1 defeat. Some very sloppy defending allowed United to put the game beyond doubt early, but we did quite well to fight our way back into things. Here's our match report.
Well things were alright for five minutes at least with us holding shape well but neither 'keeper being tested. That however didn't really last long as Manchester United took control of things pretty quickly and easily, and basically dominated us.
Simon Mignolet was busy. Tipping an Ashley Young strike over the bar and dealing with a barrage of corners well. He even got the rub of the green when Patrice Evra missed a very clear cut chance from all of 8 yards out, blazing over the bar when he really should have done better.
Not that the home fans should have been worried, and five minutes later they had the lead through Robin Van Persie.
Ashley Young and Carlos Cuellar entered a foot-race for a loose ball, with the England winger inexplicably coming off the winner in a shoulder barge to get his cross in. It should really have been cleared by John O'Shea, but back on his old stomping ground his mis-hit fell nicely for Van Persie with the freedom of our penalty area to slam it home into the top corner beyond a helpless Mignolet.
Van Persie nearly helped himself to s second goal when his header was saved wonderfully by Mignolet who got down low and at full stretch palmed it round the post. 30 seconds later though the lead was doubled.
Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley exchanged passes round the edge of the area with the latter picking up the slide-rule pass in acres of space (an emerging theme) and finished deliciously past Mignolet with a first time curling effort right into the bottom corner. Credit where it's due, it was a lovely finish.
Not even 20 minutes on the clock and the game dead and buried.
It could, and perhaps should, have been 3-0 just a minute later. Ashley Young - who had the better of Carlos Cuellar all afternoon - crossed to the back stick and found Van Persie. He nodded back into the path of an unmarked Wayne Rooney who skewed it high and wide. A real let off.
As much as United had completely bossed things throughout the first half, there were times when they just let themselves slip a little and took their foot off the gas. Unfortunately we couldn't capitalise.
James McClean squandered a glorious chance after robbing Rio Ferdinand of possession, choosing to shoot straight at David De Gea from an impossible angle when Steven Fletcher or Stephane Sessegnon would have had a tap in.
A couple of corners lead to Sessegnon getting in a strike of his own, while McClean also rifled one straight at the 'keeper from 30 yards out as the half time whistle approached.
Overall though at half time, the feeling was that the only thing really separating us was a great opening period by the hosts. Away from that we seemed to be able to match them, but once again the damage was already done.
At the break Connor Wickham was brought on to replace Steven Fletcher. The Scottish international picking up a knock with about a minute to play in the first period and not deemed fit enough to continue.
The first chance however fell to Rooney with just seconds of the second half being played. His shot was touched by Titus Bramble onto the bar with Young unable to do anything on the rebound.
What was perhaps our best chance of the game to this point came just a moment later when Carlos Cuellar played in a lovely cross to the feet of Wickham. The youngster held the ball up nicely despite the attention of Ferdinand and laid off Craig Gardner who's shot had De Gea down low to save. Sessegnon on the rebound couldn't get it past the Spaniard as we settled for a corner.
It was end to end stuff for five minutes as Robin Van Persie came close to getting himself on the scoresheet for a second time. Ashley Young's lobbed ball saw Van Persie beat the offside trap and as Mignolet came to meet, the former Arsenal striker's attempted dink went well wide.
After a brief spell or respite we seemed to really get into things, and we were teased that an improbable comeback might be on. With Johnson out wide on the left, Sessegnon on the right and McClean running around like a blue-arsed fly problems were being caused in the United back line.
This lead to another good chance for us where Wickham picked up the ball deep and ran with it. Given seemingly ages to decide whether or not he wanted to shoot with his left or his right, he eventually chose his favoured right once he got about 20 yards from goal, and fired just inches over the bar.
On the hour though this good work was undone as Wayne Rooney helped himself to a goal. The most disappointing aspect however was that it was another that could have been avoided.
Robin Van Persie skipped his way past both Titus Bramble and Carlos Cuellar as if they were not there and got to the byline to pull it to the back post where Rooney nipped in ahead of Jack Colback to tap home from a yard out. John O'Shea just watching as all this unfolded around him to complete foursome of culpability.
As much as the fact our defending had been woefully poor all afternoon was a theme, so was the fact that having scored United would sit around feeling pleased with themselves rather than taking further control of the game, which is what allowed us to claw back a goal with 20 minutes to go.
It all started when Stephane Sessegnon's excellent shot was tipped round the post by De Gea for a corner. This was never cleared and good work from Bramble on the edge of the area allowed Seb Larsson to cross into the danger zone. Again, this wasn't cleared and as everyone expected the ball to run out of play, Sessegnon picked it up, chipped to the back post and unmarked substitute Fraizer Campbell could head into the net of his boyhood team.
We continued to pressure for the remaining minutes but failed to really put United to the sword. Wickham shot straight at De Gea, while James McFadden (no, really) got in a good cross which somehow managed to be squirmed away from goal with bodies piling towards it.
Overall we'll feel disappointed here I think. After the game against Reading you felt a corner might have been turned by us but more defensive lapses ensured that this game was over as a contest after 20 minutes.
Encouraging signs from Wickham and McClean seemed to buoy us in the second half, but like most weeks it seems we'll be picking apart the positives and attempting to focus on them while simply hoping that our chronic defending just some how flutters away.
Follow everything from today's game at Old Trafford, including reports and reaction with our Match Stream, HERE.