Wise Men Say: Browned off, but Cats must put Old Trafford behind them

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WHAT is there to say about Saturday’s Premier League defeat to Manchester United?

The match followed the typical pattern of a lowly-placed side away at a bigger club, with ambitions to qualify for the Champions League.

Losing (at Hull) wouldn’t be a disaster, but it would ramp up the pressure on both him and his team for the game against Villa

Sunderland battled well, and had a couple of half-chances, before succumbing to an almost inevitable defeat.

The main talking point was, not for the first time this season, the referee’s decision-making.

He was right to give Manchester United the penalty for their opening goal. He was probably correct to show a red card for the infringement that resulted in the spot-kick.

To send off Wes Brown instead of John O’Shea, though, was as comical a decision as it was bad.

Sending Brown off ahead of O’Shea probably benefits Gus Poyet in the long run. It was unlikely that Brown would have the fitness to play again tomorrow against Hull; had O’Shea been sent off, he may have had little choice but to include him.

Instead, Poyet’s skipper will retain his place and Santiago Vergini should slot in alongside him to reform what has been a relatively solid base at times this season.

Once Wayne Rooney dispatched the penalty, there was only ever likely to be one outcome and his second goal simply confirmed the result before the final whistle came. The match limped along, much as it has for the rest of the 90 minutes, but with Sunderland unlikely to offer anything on the break as they had done in the opening half.

Of course, we’d all have welcomed a repeat of last season’s 1-0 win, but, with other results going in our favour, losing was not the disaster it may otherwise have seemed.

With a trip to Hull City coming up tomorrow and a visit from Aston Villa next weekend, we can at least all breathe a sigh of relief that Lee Cattermole did not pick up a booking and with it a two-match suspension.

Poyet will already be thinking ahead to the midweek fixture at the KC Stadium and plotting a way to get one over his nemesis, Steve Bruce.

Since returning to the Premier League, Hull just can’t stop beating Sunderland, no matter how poor their form.

Poyet will be looking to put a halt to that and, in doing so, put some much-needed breathing space between his squad and the bottom three.

Losing wouldn’t be a disaster, but it would ramp up the pressure on both him and his team for the game against Villa, who as yet haven’t quite had the new manager bounce some might have anticipated.

This being Sunderland, it would be no surprise to see Tim Sherwood mastermind a first league win in charge of the Birmingham club when they come to the Stadium of Light on March 14. Beating Hull would certainly relieve the tension going into that game.

We’re not quite at the “must win” stage yet – we’ve not been in the bottom three this season – but Sunderland simply must start picking up not just points but wins in fixtures against those sides around them.

The Wise Men Say podcast is available every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.