[Premier League] Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United
Sunderland: Craig Gardner (5)
ManUtd: Adnan Januzaj (55, 61)
Manchester United returned to winning ways at Sunderland thanks to two superb goals from Adnan Januzaj.
The 18-year-old, making his first start for the Reds in the Barclays Premier League, cancelled out Craig Gardner’s opener with a pair of brilliant strikes within six minutes of each other in the second half.
United’s evening had got off to the worst possible start when the hosts took the lead just five minutes in. Phil Jones’ clearance to Emanuele Giaccherini’s low cross went straight to Nemanja Vidic, but the United skipper got into a tangle, and when the ball fell to Gardner the Sunderland midfielder immediately swept the ball in past David De Gea’s right hand.
Rocked back by the early goal, the Reds took time to settle but Januzaj threatened with a shot that rifled just inches wide, while Nani’s first-time volley from a tight angle flew across the face of goal. David De Gea pulled off a magnificent, one-handed save to his right to deny Emanuele Giaccherini's header, and just before half-time the same Sunderland dangerman blazed over the bar from close range.
These missed opportunities by the hosts were the turning point, and after regaining their composure, the champions struck two decisive blows through the Belgian-born youngster. The first goal left home keeper Keiren Westwood rooted to the spot as Januzaj's right foot connected with Patrice Evra’s cross while the second was an even sweeter strike. John O’Shea had headed Nani’s cross out towards the edge of the area, but the 18-year-old lashed the ball back past Westwood for a truly magnificent winner.
The goals took the wind out of Sunderland’s sails, and Robin van Persie spurned a great chance for an even better scoreline when he unusually stabbed the ball wide in the dying stages of the match.
The Match: After a shocking start in a noisy Stadium of Light against pumped-up opponents, United steadied themselves and took a deep breath to ride out the storm. David De Gea’s wonderful save to deny Emanuele Giaccherini kept the Reds within touching distance, and the Sunderland striker’s wastefulness just ahead of the break proved to be a tipping point. Adnan Januzaj took his chances superbly, and once ahead United rarely looked troubled.
Goals: For his first trick, the teenager found Evra then clinically despatched the return ball past a flat-footed Keiren Westwood. For seconds, the Belgian latched on to John O’Shea’s headed clearance from a clever ball over from Nani to lash the ball beyond the Black Cats keeper. Right foot, left foot, simple.
Star man: Adnan Januzaj’s performance announced a special talent to a wider world. In addition to his goals, the 18-year-old posed problems down both flanks and had served notice of his goal threat when he rifled a shot just wide in the first half. He blotted his copy book with a booking for diving, but he will deserve all the plaudits that will come his way for his overall performance. Elsewhere, United’s midfield helped establish a foothold after the shock of the early goal, and David De Gea’s magnificent effort to keep the score at 0-1 in the first half was crucial.
Subplot: Once news of Januzaj’s selection from the start filtered out, the questions over whether he was up to the task were asked straight away. The final outcome answered them perfectly, but a solid performance by a side without Rio Ferdinand and Marouane Fellaini steadied the ship before Januzaj's moments of magic.
Opposition: Sunderland made a superb start and could have been even further ahead by half-time, but their efforts before the break seemed to take a lot out of Kevin Ball’s side. Once United had gone ahead, the home side had nothing left in the tank and they failed to consistently worry the Reds.
Move of the match: Januzaj’s cute turn and pass to Evra gave the Belgian enough time and space to pick up the return to bury the ball past Westwood. A defining moment in the match, and what a way for a young player to mark his first start in the Premier League.
In the stands: The early goal pumped up the volume in the Stadium of Light and spurred the home side on in the first half. The United contingent responded in kind once the Reds had put their foot on the gas, and Januzaj’s magnificent strikes will have been the topic of conversation on their return journeys from Wearside.