Anthony Martial is head and shoulders above his team-mates, Louis van Gaal is unlikely to steer the Premier League giants to a top-four finish and other things we learned from Sunderland 2 Manchester United 1
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Martial is in a league of his own
As far as this Manchester United side is concerned, Martial is a level or two above most of his team-mates. The world’s most expensive teenager has been in scintillating form in recent weeks and he was once again United’s most dangerous attacker by a long way. He levelled the scores with an accomplished finish from what appeared an almost impossible angle and provided the most consistent and, sometimes, only source of threat from his left flank role. Bizarrely, he was pushed out to the right following the introduction of Memphis Depay after an hour, which did not work. The deal that brought Martial from Monaco last summer could eventually cost United £61.5 million if a variety of incentive clauses are met. One is to pay the French club €10 million (£7.7m) when he scores 25 goals for the Premier League giants. That values each goal at €400,000 and Saturday’s effort – his 10th so far – was worth every penny. It is a target Martial should comfortably meet.
Top-four finish is slipping away
United were six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City before kick-off and the top-four equation remains the same after a seventh Premier League defeat of the season. Should City claim at least a draw against Tottenham on Sunday, United will be seven points away from a Champions League spot, which looks an almighty gap to bridge for such a mediocre side. After dominating the first half, United were abject in the second period, when Sunderland played a high line and went for the jugular. The response of the visitors was to wilt and fade.
Schneiderlin is a shadow of his former self
The £25million signing from Southampton has been a major disappointment in his first season at Old Trafford. A proven Premier League performer, he has looked below the calibre required of a United central midfielder and that was once again the case against a team he would be expected to thrive against. It says something when the absent Marouane Fellaini is missed.
Love is all you need
The identity of the latest youngster to be promoted to the senior Manchester United team provoked a few jokes on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Donald Love, who joined United aged seven, replaced Matteo Darmian in the first half after the Italian right-back joined the club’s walking wounded with a shoulder injury. Remarkably, United are now without seven of their first-choice full-backs, which must surely be some kind of record. Love had a reasonable debut but it is asking too much for United’s young players to do a job that the seniors seem incapable of.
Sunderland have fighting spirit to stay up
A first home league victory for the Black Cats against United in nearly 20 years means the Great Escape is once again on a possibility for a club who make such a habit of them. Not unexpectedly, both of Sunderland’s goals came from set pieces, but they looked the most likely of the two teams in the second half and were good value for a victory that lifts them to within one point of 17th position.