The first match wasn’t a glitch. Manchester United, picking up their first point of the season after a 1-1 draw with Sunderland, look like a side deep into its rebuild, with tactics that don’t fit the current squad of players. That didn’t stop them from taking a lead through Juan Mata, but the hosts deserves the equalizer from Jack Rodwell and more.
The trio in defense of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett continues to look confused as to what role each of them needs to fill. Sunderland were much better than their visitors through the first 15 minutes, but one moment of individual brilliance from Antonio Valencia allowed Juan Mata to give Manchester United a somewhat poached lead. It did calm them down for a short while, but it didn’t last long.
Their attack seems disjointed, their defense looks worse, especially without two central midfielders Van Gaal would rather have, both out with injuries. Jack Rodwell took advantage of some poor Robin van Persie coverage in a corner kick to score his first goal for his new club, hoping that it’ll be a chance he takes with both hands to revive his career after hitting an expected roadblock after signing for Manchester City.
Sunderland were the more dangerous side, finding more openings in the cracked Manchester United defense, as Ashley Young showed again just how problematic it is for him to fill the wing back role his manager expects of him. Funnily enough, Young was also the most dangerous United player in the second half, as any sign of an organized attacking system went out the door once Robin van Persie was replaced.
Lee Cattermole was the best player on the pitch in another fantastic performance from the defensive midfielder, although he didn’t score a goal this time. William Buckley impressed on the right wing and Connor Wickham showed he has progressed as a footballer. Jozy Altidore added some pace up front when he came in, but that didn’t give Sunderland a clear cut chance to trouble David de Gea once again.
Ashley Young was booked for diving, not anything new for a player who simply doesn’t learn. Wayne Rooney seemed lost on the pitch, and Danny Welbeck might have performed for the last time in this run for Manchester United. Everyone is now waiting to hear if Angel di Maria is actually arriving although fixing their tactical issues and sorting out the balance problems in this squad might be more important.