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Manchester United beat Sunderland 3-0 at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League, forcing a much tougher relegation battle on David Moyes’ side. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the first goal in the 30th minute of the match, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan slotting home seconds after the restart in the second half. Marcus Rashford scored in the 90th minute of the match, a good finish set up by the Swede. United didn’t score enough for my liking, but a win is a win and what United needed, especially after two draws at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho made five changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Everton at Old Trafford with Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all being involved from the start. David De Gea has a “small problem” according to the manager and he will be back next week against Chelsea. United started the game in good fashion with Jesse Lingard having a shot on goal in the third minute, but Jordan Pickford thwarted the effort easily. United won a corner in the sixth minute of the match with Luke Shaw taking it, Lingard having a shot on goal then Marcos Rojo being fouled with a free-kick awarded to United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic took the free-kick, it deflected off the Sunderland wall for a United corner.
Sunderland started to get themselves back into the game after opening pressure from United which saw them have nearly 75% of the possession in the opening 15 minutes of the match. Sunderland had two good attacking into the United half, not really threatening to score a goal. Shaw found himself being booked for a challenge on Didier Ndong from behind. Minutes later, Marcos Rojo gave away a free-kick for a high challenge on Jermain Defoe, taken by Bryan Oviedo, which went straight into the arms of Sergio Romero. United needed to get to grips with the game as Sunderland were starting to pressure United, perhaps not in a way whereby they would push for a goal, though. It has been more than ten hours since Sunderland last scored in the Premier League.
Sunderland gained some ground heading into the 30-minute mark of the game, challenging United on the edge of their box with Lee Cattermole getting a shot on goal, straight into the arms of Romero, though. A minute or so later, Defoe was through on goal, missing the target, but was flagged for offside. United needed to grab the game by the throat and do something to get themselves ahead, or Sunderland would gain control and fight for the goal themselves after a period of confidence. United did get another attempt on goal though, with Pickford making another save. United did not give up though, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a sublime goal in 30th minute of the match, his 28th goal of the season, 18th in the league and his ninth goal in his last eleven matches.
Since scoring the goal, United have seen more of the ball and nearly had another in the back of the net with Shaw and Zlatan working well and Marouane Fellaini, today’s captain failing to tap in from close range. Sunderland got themselves back into United territory once again in the 40th minute of the match with Victor Anichebe getting through on goal, with Romero showing his class as a goalkeeper and thwarting his effort. Sunderland found themselves in hot water with Sebastian Larsson being shown the red card by Craig Pawson for challenges on Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera. It took him a while to leave the pitch, seemingly trying to argue his case, which will not go in his favour. The first half ended with United leading 1-0.
United doubled their lead in the 46th minute of the match, seconds from the restart through Mkhitaryan, who nutmegged Lamine Kone and saw his shot beat Pickford. Mkhitaryan has scored eight goals this season, five in the last twelve matches. United ideally needed to get themselves more goals, which would heighten their confidence ahead of Anderlecht and Chelsea, their next two matches. Just after the hour, Mourinho made his first change of the match with Daley Blind replacing Shaw, with the manager giving Shaw a pat on the back after coming off the pitch, which was good to see. Perhaps the media will make less of a big deal about the situation now? Lingard saw himself booked on th 64th minute, and being replaced by Marcus Rashford just after, United second change of the match.
United tooked lively on the attck after the introduction of both Blind and Rashford, with the latter having two chances on the attack, but being broken down both times. Sunderland had been trying to get themselves back into the game, when in actual fact, they need to be looking at getting out of the Championship next season. United made their third change of the match with Anthony Martial replacing Mkhitaryan. I would have liked to see Axel Tuanzebe or Timothy Fosu-Mensah, though. Fellaini was booked, for the eighth time this season, for a challenge shortly after the substitution. The resulting free-kick for Sunderland came to nothing, shock horror. Martial saw himself being booked in the 82nd minute after a challenge with Pickford, who received a back pass.
Despite being 2-0 up, United still attacked but gained nothing. Paul Pogba took a free kick inside the last eight minutes of the match, just putting it wide of the post. United did need to return to winning ways today, which has seen them rise to fifth in the league again, three points clear of Arsenal, who face Crystal Palace on Monday evening. Arsenal have a three-goal advantage ahead of United goal difference, so United will be hoping Palace do United a favour on Monday. United scored a third goal in the final minute of normal time through Rashford, who passed to Zlatan, him setting the 19-year-old up for his eighth goal of the season, his second in the last 16 matches. Matteo Darmian became the fifth United player to be booked in the victory over Sunderland.
It may not have been a high scoring match for United, but to push Sunderland that little bit closer to the Championship is a good thing for Premier League football. Anderlecht on Thursday will be next up for United, which Chelsea on the horizon in the Premier League a week today.
Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 30′, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 46′, Marcus Rashford 90′
Assists: Ander Herrera 30′, Luke Shaw 46′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 90′
Manchester United: Romero; Darmian, Bailly, Rojo, Shaw (Blind 61′); Herrera, Fellaini; Lingard (Rashford 64′), Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Martial 78′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Pereira; Tuanzebe, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick
Bookings: Luke Shaw 15′, Jesse Lingard 64′, Marouane Fellaini 79′, Anthony Martial 82′, Matteo Darmian 90+2′