5 Things We Learned From Sunderland 1-1 Manchester United

United desperately need another new defender

Marcos Rojo couldn’t play here, but with Louis van Gaal seemingly determined to keep starting with three central defenders despite his actual defenders providing him with plenty of evidence to change, not signing another centre-back would be a criminal mistake.

Tyler Blackett has performed admirably but you’d expect that the left-sided Rojo will come into the team for the youngster, and so targeting another, more dominant centre-back must surely be a priority for Van Gaal given Jonny Evans’ fitness issues and Chris Smalling’s uncertainty.

With negotiations for Angel di Maria set to drag on, United can’t afford to ignore their real need.


Jack Rodwell can be Sunderland’s leader, if he can stay fit

After beginning the last campaign rudderless and under the tutelage of the wild Paolo Di Canio, and then taking a while to get used to the methods of Gus Poyet, Sunderland were ultimately dug out of a hole by terrific individual displays.

It was Connor Wickham and Fabio Borini back then, but in signing Jack Rodwell the Black Cats have brought in a player who does possess the ability to dominate matches when his body allows it.

Some of Rodwell’s better displays for Everton and Manchester City came when he was stationed in an advanced midfield position, and if Lee Cattermole can keep doing his dirty work for him in midfield and he can stay fit, his could be one of the signings of the summer.


Slow motion replay simply isn’t the United way

In a repeat of much of the defeat to Swansea, it was difficult to tell whether or not Manchester United were playing in slow motion here.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie appeared painfully ponderous at times, failing to link up either with each other or with Juan Mata, but against a defence which featured the leaden-footed John O’Shea and Wes Brown, there was never an attempt to run beyond the home back line.

In such circumstances you often look for pace from your wingers, but Van Gaal’s system meant that Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia spent just as much time in their own penalty area as they did Sunderland’s.


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Tom Cleverley remains the answer to a question no-one asked

At any one time there can be as many as five Manchester United players trending on Twitter, and the words that accompany the names aren’t too complementary.

The bulk of the stick, of course, is reserved for Tom Cleverley, who wouldn’t have been playing here had Ander Herrera been fit, but who once again is being seen as everything that is wrong with the current Manchester United.

He’s not, of course. You’d need a far longer article to list all of those, but surely the time has come for a parting of the ways now? Neither party is helping the other at the moment.


Will Buckley bucks a trend

In these times of obsession over systems and formations – not least when Manchester United play – it was refreshing to see a player such as Sunderland’s Will Buckley just do things in an uncomplicated matter.

The new signing from Brighton was excellent in the first half in his first game since swapping one end of the country for the other. He was always available. He picked up the ball in good areas and made intelligent passes and runs.

It’s simple, this football isn’t it?


All the odds for Manchester City v Liverpool!