Defensive lapses hurt Sunderland manager David Moyes

Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets the better of the Sunderland defence to fire Manchester United ahead. Picture by Frank Reid
Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets the better of the Sunderland defence to fire Manchester United ahead. Picture by Frank Reid
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With Sunderland’s goal drought now stretching to seven games, the last thing David Moyes needed was for his side to defend poorly at the other end.

Sunderland had started well enough against Manchester United yesterday, until Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring on the half-hour mark with a goal out of nothing.

It was a fine individual effort from the Swede but it was too easy from Sunderland’s point of view, with both Billy Jones and Lamine Kone failing to get a challenge or a block in.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan ended the game as a contest 45 seconds into the second-half – again given too much space to shoot and score having spun away from Lee Cattermole.

Kone, again, backed off and could only watch as the ball flew past Jordan Pickford. Marcus Rashford added a third in the 89th minute.

“We didn’t get tight enough on either of the goals,” reflected a disappointed Moyes.

“The first goal was quite easy to defend; he controls it, plays into his feet and turns.

“It is a really good finish from distance but you would have hoped for a block.

“The second goal was a killer just after half-time.

“We could have done more to prevent that.”

At the other end, Moyes was able to name Victor Anichebe in his starting line-up for the first time since January, the striker having made his comeback from a knee injury as a substitute against Leicester City in the 2-0 defeat in midweek.

The former Everton and West Brom striker’s comeback looks to have come too late in the season to help save Sunderland from the drop, but Moyes remains hopeful that he can still play a big part between now and May.

Moyes added: “It was positive to have Vic back.

“In truth, he probably got the one half-chance for us, once we get him back and we get used to him again we can get something out of him.”

Sunderland’s injury woes have eased in recent weeks with the return of Anichebe, Cattermole and Steven Pienaar to the squad.

But the Black Cats were hit with another injury blow against Manchester United, with Bryan Oviedo forced off the field in the first half with a hamstring injury.

The left-back, signed from Everton in January, will be assessed but is facing a spell on the sidelines after clutching his right hamstring on the turf before being substituted.

Loanee Javier Manquillo replaced him at left-back for only his second substitute appearance since January.