David Moyes says Seb Larsson’s red card changed the course of today’s game against Manchester United – but refused to use it as an excuse for another Sunderland defeat.
The goal-shy Black Cats remain 10 points from Premier League safety after three defeats in a week, but, with just seven games left to play, there remains little sign of hope of a revival.
Sunderland’s task of getting anything against Manchester United was made tougher when referee Craig Pawson gave Larsson his marching orders two minutes before the break.
The Black Cats, who are expected to appeal the red card, were trailing 1-0 at the time – Zlatan Ibrahimovic giving Jose Mourinho’s side the lead after half an hour.
Crucially, they were still in the game, but it changed when they went down to 10 men, with United extending their lead within 45 seconds of the second half through Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Sub Marcus Rashford completed the scoring at 3-0 late on to heap more misery on Sunderland, who also saw left-back Bryan Oviedo go off with a hamstring injury.
Moyes was disappointed with the red card but refused to use that as an excuse for the club’s league position.
“I was disappointed we haven’t taken anything from the game,” reflected the Sunderland boss.
“There were a couple of things that didn’t go for us. I am not saying that would have made the big difference because Manchester United had good control.
“But we were in the game.
“It was key that we remained in the game.
“The sending off changed that.
“I don’t want to in anyway blame referees because our position is where we are, we are bottom of the league.
“Let me make that clear, [our position] is nothing to do with referees, but I didn’t think it was a good decision.”
With Manchester United leading thanks to Ibrahimovic’s effort, the game was effectively sealed as a contest just before the break.
Pawson, to the bemusement of the Stadium of Light crowd and the players on the pitch, showed a straight red to the Swede for a foul on Ander Herrera.
There was contact and one foot was off the floor, but it wasn’t out of control or reckless.
The decision baffled Moyes and Sunderland are expected to appeal the straight red card.
“I have had a look at it, don’t worry,” Moyes added.
“Seb gets the ball, he touched the ball.
“It is not a red card challenge, it is not even a booking.”
Sunderland, who have failed to hit the back of the net in more than 11 hours of Premier League football, remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League.
They host West Ham United on Wearside this Saturday and Moyes concedes the task facing Sunderland gets tougher every week.
He added: “It is probably more difficult because we have a game less, it makes it tougher.
“There is no hiding the fact we are in a difficult position.
“We have a home game next, let’s try and get a win and get some momentum from that.
“We will try and do that.”