Manchester United, the giants of English football, came to the Stadium of Light amidst trouble off the field for star players, dips in form and criticisms, yet many would still have written off Sunderland in the weekend’s clash.
However, Wearside is brimming with confidence at the moment, following a run of only one defeat in six going into the Manchester United game, including points against Arsenal and Liverpool and a fantastic win over Manchester City.
So, who’s to say this would be an easy United victory? And never in my life did I think I would be disappointed with only a draw versus Sir Alex’s men.
It’s quite simple; we outplayed them. There is no way around it, we were by far and away the better team for 90 minutes, with the one negative being an inability to convert chances into goals.
Steed Malbranque missed a glorious chance when one-on-one with Edwin Van der Sar, while Bolo Zenden was unlucky to only strike the post with a powerful shot and Asamoah Gyan attempted the spectacular with an ambitious overhead volley.
Rarely did Man United look capable of breaking down a resilient Sunderland backline, with scarce moments of anxiety, limited to a Dimitar Berbatov long-range effort and a harmless Nani free kick.
So, what is it about the new look Sunderland that are making life very difficult for the Premier League big boys?
Although Steve Bruce opted to play the lone striker in Darren Bent, we looked dangerous coming forward, with a midfield threat from the quartet of Malbranque, Zenden, Henderson and El-Mohammady, always supported defensively by the much more composed Lee Cattermole.
Looking at the opening seven games, the lads have only lost once, in a game that we were poor throughout and deservedly lost to West Brom. In positive terms, we have taken points from some of the biggest teams in the division and if we can harness this form and transfer it to games versus the Premier League’s lesser sides, a top ten finish is undeniable.
In a way this has been a weekend of mixed emotions, overwhelmed by an amazing Sunderland performance and slightly disappointed at a failure to capitalise and claim all three points, which would not have been unjust.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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