Manchester United 3 Sunderland 0 - Analysis: Costly one-two over half-time has Cats running on empty

Sunderland striker Fabio Borini takes on United's Michael Carrick. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland striker Fabio Borini takes on United's Michael Carrick. Picture by Frank Reid
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Anyone feeling thirsty among the 2,501 in the away end at Old Trafford could have been forgiven for trying to beat the rush by nipping to the beverage stands a couple of minutes before the interval.

After all, there was the rare sight after the previous two games, of being able to toast Sunderland not giving themselves an uphill battle with just 10 minutes on the clock.

But anyone catching a sip of lager 40 seconds either side of half-time, missed the latest example of Sunderland’s inability to deal with basic footballing principles which undid all of their hard work.

Sometimes clichés are there for a reason. Don’t concede away from home in the first 20 minutes. Make sure you don’t let one in on the stroke of half-time. Ensure you’re wide awake when the second half kicks off.

As he turned 68 this morning, Advocaat must have still been shaking his head at these (it has to be said) ‘typical Sunderland’ traits which continue to hamstring any attempts to move away from that ominous position at the bottom of the Premier League table.

His old ‘mucka’ Louis van Gaal was the one benefiting from the gifts, as he recorded only a second win in 10 from the meetings between the veteran Dutch pair.

It was admittedly a lovely ball over the top from Daley Blind in the build-up to Memphis’ opener, yet it was a critical blow to a side whose fragile confidence levels were only beginning to pick up in the final five minutes of the first half.

United had barely caused a ripple of panic up to that point in a tepid encounter, as Yann M’Vila and a back-in-the-groove Lee Cattermole provided a solid protective barrier.

But that goal, just as Advocaat was preparing his half-time team talk, was fatal.

With Sunderland so short on points and without any clean sheets, it was a sickener for both confidence and concentration.

That was demonstrated by the soft manner of Wayne Rooney’s decisive second - to become United’s joint record top scorer - 40 seconds after the interval.

Yes, Sunderland could - and should - have got back into the game with Ola Toivonen and then Patrick van Aanholt spurning chances which have to be taken if you’re going to come away with anything from a trip to Old Trafford.

After they were spurned, it became oh-so straightforward for United.

But those are the opportunities which go begging when self-belief is in short supply.

The concern is that as the weeks go by, Sunderland are running out of opportunities to play catch-up.