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Sunderland AFC v man united (h)...

It’s very hard to stop - this clinging to a vain hope of avoiding the drop. When the final whistles went yesterday I was pleased that our three rivals had only got one point out of a possible nine and my brain started working out all the permutations of how if we win today and beat Boro in our game in hand and then beat both Hull and Swansea, we could just about make it…. Actually I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we went and won today just to prolong the agony a little more. All the pundits are sure that Man United will win and good sense would agree with them. If we can start with both Defoe and Anichebe and manage an early goal, then we have a chance but even getting a goal seems hard to imagine in these dire times. United are unbeaten in twenty league matches but their minds may well be on their upcoming Europa League game. Rooney’s not playing but they’ve got so much talent in their squad that he’ll hardly be missed. O’Shea will be missing again but Januzaj is ineligible; pity that (not). The lovely spring sunshine beaming through my window is giving me an air of optimism but I’m trying to look at the game objectively so my match prediction is a 2-1 defeat.

There was one change from Tuesday’s starting line-up and it was a pleasing one with Anichebe replacing Borini. Man United made five changes and Fellaini was captain. I don’t have a TV and couldn’t get my usual stream online so I had to resort to Talksport. Micky Gray was helping with the commentary and said he was surprised to see so many empty seats. Apparently it’s been sixty-four days since we scored. United did most of the pressing in the early stages but we managed to survive two corners and a free-kick taken by Ibrahimovic just outside our box. We won our first corner in the thirteenth minute but Jones’ header went wide. Next thing Shaw was yellow-carded for a rash challenge. Our fans were responding to any positive play and it sounded like we were doing better after being on the ropes. Around the twentieth minute we won a Sebable free-kick on the right of their box but Oviedo took it in the end and Romero saved easily. The commentator said United had been sterile despite their greater possession. Gray said our ball-retention was poor and both Kone and Denayer looked nervy. Nothing new there then. Also Defoe was looking frustrated with his lack of service. Same again.

Just before the half-hour mark we had a decent little period with Catts getting a shot on target and then Defoe being ruled offside, perhaps wrongly. Straightaway United were up the other end and a Lingard shot was turned out for a corner from which Ibrahimovic put them one-up. He was allowed to turn and shoot by our dozy defenders with Kone coming in for particular criticism from Gray. We almost went two-down from a Fellaini effort but Pickford saved. Next thing Oviedo indicated he was injured and he was eventually replaced by Manquillo. Like for like, the commentator said (choose your own adjective there). With five minutes to the break Big Vic had a golden chance in the box but his shot was put out by Romero for a corner. Just before the break Seb was red carded for a foul on Herrera and it seemed a very harsh one apparently; things not being helped by much rolling around by Herrera. Seb didn’t go quietly and there was booing from our fans. It was still only 0-1 at the break but a win for us now looked impossible. Referee Craig Pawson was booed to hell as he walked off. It was Seb’s first ever red card, I was surprised to hear.

Almost straightaway we were 2-0 down when Shaw fed Mkhitaryan and he shot into the bottom right corner. Pickford injured himself and Ibrahimovic when they collided just outside our box but both picked themselves up and shook hands. It was all rather academic after that but we managed a decent effort on target about fifteen minutes in when Defoe’s free-kick from some distance forced Romero into a rare save. United made a couple of changes with Blind and Rashford replacing Shaw and Lingard. We had another decent effort from Defoe when his shot from outside the box went narrowly over. Catts got a good ripple when he was replaced by Borini. Fab has done little for us this season apart from that cracker of a goal at Old Trafford but the chances of a repeat performance seemed negligible. I couldn’t wait for it all to be over really and get out in the sun like many of our season-ticket holders who had left their seats empty today. Little of note happened after that until Rashford got their third from a narrow angle a couple of minutes from the end.

Any slim hopes we had of pulling off a win today disappeared after that dodgy red card but even a below-par Man United were comfortable winners today.

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