Sunderland vs. Manchester United: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

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Sunderland vs. Manchester United: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sunderland 1-1 Manchester United

Louis van Gaal claimed his first Premier League point as Manchester United manager, but the Old Trafford team were fortunate to escape Sunderland with a 1-1 draw.

Juan Mata had given United the lead against the run of play in the 17th minute, after an opening period in which the Stadium of Light side had looked the far better team.

However, United failed to build on that opener, and a lack of cohesion in the team served to deny Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney any opportunities up front.

And on the half-hour mark, former Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell scored his first goal since joining Sunderland to cancel out Mata's opener.

With Angel Di Maria reportedly set to join United this week from Real Madrid, according to Sky Sports, the Argentina international cannot arrive soon enough with the Red Devils short of pace and creativity on Wearside.

Manchester United manager Van Gaal restored Van Persie to his starting line-up, along with Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley. The trio came in for Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Javier Hernandez.

Sunderland handed a debut to Will Buckley after illness kept Adam Johnson out of the team.

The Black Cats controlled the opening stages of the game, with United seemingly ill at ease at the back and in midfield.

And Sunderland almost forced a good chance from Lee Cattermole, whose shot was blocked from Seb Larsson's clever free-kick.

Buckley took advantage of a Darren Fletcher slip to play in Connor Wickham, but his weak effort failed to trouble David De Gea.

Against the run of play, though, United took the lead in the 17th minute. Valencia found space down the right to pull the ball across goal and, with the help of a slight deflection, found Mata waiting to pounce from close range.

Sunderland were not about to let the momentum escape them, though, and Wickham flashed a shot wide of goal.

And on the half-hour mark, the Wearside team were level. A Larsson corner was swung to the edge of the six-yard box, and after escaping the attentions of Valencia, Rodwell rose to power the ball past De Gea.

Steven Fletcher attempted an acrobatic second goal for the Black Cats with four minutes of the half remaining, but his connection with Rodwell's knockdown was not clear and the chance went wide.

An apparent hamstring problem forced United defender Chris Smalling out of the game in the 44th minute, with Michael Keane replacing him.

Despite Mata's goal, the first half was a poor one for United with no rhythm to their game, possession lost too easily and a lack of invention.

United were almost caught cold five minutes after the break when Wickham entered the area with ease, but Tyler Blackett turned away his effort.

The referee cautioned Ashley Young in the 62nd minute for diving after a challenge from Wes Brown inside the Sunderland penalty area.

A 75th-minute Larsson free-kick almost caught De Gea unaware, but the United goalkeeper was relieved to see it fly wide of his goal.

Sunderland could sense a famous win, and substitute Jozy Altidore almost set up a second before Young averted the danger.

This was not a display United supporters will have enjoyed, but Sunderland continued a solid start to the season.

 

Selected player ratings

Tyler Blackett: B

The young United defender was left isolated at times, but he can hold his head up after a decent display at the Stadium of Light.

 

Juan Mata: B-

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The United midfielder might have scored at the Stadium of Light, but he lacked the invention of his time at Chelsea to light up the performance.

 

Jack Rodwell: A

Great for Sunderland and England to see the former Everton and Manchester City midfielder back at full fitness. He linked well with his forwards and deserved his goal.

 

What's ahead

Sunderland will travel to Birmingham City on Wednesday for their Capital One Cup tie, while United will be in action 24 hours earlier in the same tournament at MK Dons of League One.

But the question for Old Trafford supporters will be whether Angel Di Maria will be in the squad in time for the cup tie.

 

Post-match reaction

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