Sunderland vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2014

Sunderland vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned

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    If David Moyes does indeed have £200 million to spend on transfers, it might not be enough. 

    The Scotsman watched his Manchester United side crash to yet another defeat, as the pain and misery continue for the club.

    Thankfully for the Red Devils, a second leg at Old Trafford could yet rescue this tie, but on Tuesday night, the team was once again short of form and courage.

    Moyes fielded a strong side for this Capital One Cup semi-final, with the tournament representing United's best chance of silverware in 2014.

    However, failure was once again the dish served up by the Reds, as Sunderland took a goal advantage into the return tie.

    Here are six things we learned from the game...

Rafael Is a Shadow of Himself

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    As we witnessed Fabio's combustion in the FA Cup against Swansea City, his twin brother showed how form might run in the family.

    It seemed last year that Rafael had overcome his overexuberance from his teenage days and would hold down the right-back position for many years to come.

    However, his performance levels have crashed to new lows.

    The effort was present from the young Brazilian international, but the confidence and ability were not. 

    The player has been dogged by injury all season, and this has severely hammered his form.

    With no other specialist right-back in the team, Rafael will get a run to retain his position, but with talks of transfer war chests, Moyes might go window-shopping for a replacement.

United's Former Players Are as Good as Their Replacements

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    John O'Shea, Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley. Three players let go by United in order for the club to upgrade the squad.

    Tuesday night, there was no evidence that their replacements are any better.

    It is devil's advocate to say all three could play for United currently, but their success and victory on Tuesday night says more about David Moyes' men than it does about United's former players.

    Captain O'Shea led his Sunderland side to a solid victory, and the Black Cats will take heart into the return leg at Old Trafford. A historic Wembley date is the prize. 

    If the former United trio can defeat the Red Devils in their own backyard, it will represent a bittersweet triumph for Fergie's old boys.

Tom Cleverley Is Failing in a United Shirt

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    The youth product with the once-big future is not taking his opportunity.

    With Man Utd fully in transition, with a brand-new manager, Tom Cleverley has the perfect chance to show he has the class and ability to wear the famous badge on his chest.

    At the moment, the England international is failing.

    Cleverley was overrun by the Sunderland midfield, often caught chasing his opponent after being pulled out of position. 

    His chase down of Adam Johnson and subsequent loose challenge conceded the foul which brought the Black Cats their winner on the night. This compounded a poor performance by the player, who was deservedly substituted. 

    Cleverley did have one good moment—it was his set piece that led to United's equaliser. 

    However, it was not enough.

United's Reliance on Januzaj Is Unfair on the Player

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    "If you're good enough, you're old enough."

    It has always been the United way.

    However, what we are witnessing is the weight of the world being placed on the young shoulders of a kid from Belgium. 

    Adnan Januzaj has been a sensation for Man Utd this season, even with the multiple losses at home and the flirtation with mid-table mediocrity. 

    Moyes has been forced to turn to the teenager to inspire his bloated team and add the magic that the squad is clearly missing.

    This is unfair on the player. 

    Januzaj needs careful handling, and overplaying him could be disastrous in terms of his physical development.

    For now, Januzaj is United's best fit player, in the absence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

    This element itself says so much about the current failings of this team.

United Need to Get Carrick Fit Fast

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    It was constantly screamed how poor United would be without their talisman in midfield.

    However, Tuesday night showed how short he still is of match fitness.

    Michael Carrick's lay-off damaged any quality United had in the centre during his absence, but as things stand, that problem has not been improved upon.

    Carrick is vital to a Manchester United heart that pumps blood around its body, but an unfit Carrick needs to be carried, and the vital organs of the team become compromised. 

    Carrick's touch and passing are nowhere near sharp enough yet, especially with midfield partners who cannot compensate and allow him to find fitness slowly.

    United need the Carrick of last season back as quick as possible, or more teams will defeat the champions in the coming weeks.

Moyes Needs to Spend Spend Spend!

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    It is probably the most obvious thing you can say about Manchester United at the moment.

    This squad is not bad, but it is short of players who can change games and offer world-class ability.

    When you remove the names of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, this squad looks very ordinary on paper.

    More concerning is that it looks very ordinary on the pitch.

    David Moyes needs £100 million just to get the rebuilding going. After this, further investment will surely be needed.

    It is "stick or twist" time for the Glazers. Man Utd is their bank and their nest egg.

    With the concern of falling share prices, per The Telegraphit is time to "speculate to accumulate."

    Manchester United must spend big, and they must spend now. This squad will not support future success without the addition of creative talent, and a lack of investment in players will damage the brand.

    These things motivate the Glazer family. Now it is time for action.