With all the talk about Manchester United’s failure to sign a big-name signing this summer, Adnan Januzaj became his side’s saviour as the defending champions ended a two-game losing run in the Premier League. The Brussels-born winger was handed his first Premier League start of the season on United’s troublesome left wing, and following his Stadium of Light display, should be top of the pecking order for that position in the coming weeks. The 18-year-old was his side’s brightest spark in an otherwise disappointing first-half display from the visitors as Craig Gardner edged Sunderland ahead. But Januzaj kept plugging away after the interval and single-handedly changed the momentum of the clash. The Belgian’s 55th-minute opener started with an incisive pass for Patrice Evra before collecting the defender’s return ball and slotting it past Kieren Westwood. While his opener showed a composure beyond his years, Januzaj’s second was all about pure talent. John O’Shea’s under-hit clearance fell into the path of the winger who instinctively struck a sweet volley into the corner of the net. It was an accomplished performance, and a warning sign to his current employers to tie the playmaker down to a long-term deal, with Manchester City sniffing around.
While Paolo Di Canio certainly fulfilled his image as a fiery hot-headed Italian during his short reign in charge, the former Sunderland boss left arguably his most tenacious player, Lee Cattermole, out in the cold. Caretaker manager Kevin Ball has restored the hard-tackling midfielder to the starting line-up and it’s paying dividends as the Middlesbrough youth graduate produced another dogged performance. Cattermole lacks the guile of his more silky team-mates, such as Sebastian Larsson, but the Black Cats need fighters in their current predicament. Despite a rushed exit, Di Canio did leave a parting gift at Sunderland in the shape of Emanuele Giaccherini. It was a surprise to see the Italy international swap Serie A champions Juventus for Sunderland this summer, and the 28-year-old has been a hit. He scored his second goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to Liverpool last week, and he was instrumental to Sunderland’s bright first half on Saturday. It was his pass – and pressure – which led to Gardner’s goal, and the cunning Italian was ever-probing when in possession. He also showed discipline to track the runs of Nani and Rafael. If Sunderland are to have any hope of climbing the table, Giaccherini’s quick-thinking football brain could be key to their survival.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic rolled back the years last season as the pair brought stability to United’s defence en route to the club’s 20th top-flight crown. But it has been a vastly different story so far under Moyes. The Scot’s Everton side were credited with being one of the most well-organised defensive units in the top flight. United look anything but organised at the moment. Ferdinand was criticised for his part in a 2-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion last weekend, and at the Stadium of Light, it was Vidic’s turn to succumb to an error-strewn performance. The United captain’s sloppy pass led to Sunderland’s opener as Gardner pounced on the loose ball and slotted a low finish past David De Gea. It was almost a mirror image of Shakhtar Donetsk’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw with the Red Devils mid-week. The Serb appears to be short on confidence and an uncharacteristically rash challenge saw the centre-half concede a cheap free-kick on the edge of his area in the first half. The 31-year-old can count himself fortunate to avoid a booking for another cynical challenge on Giaccherini as Sunderland pressed for a leveller. While his legs weren’t in sync at times tonight, Vidic to produce a vital clearance in the final 10 minutes as the home side pressed. Moyes still needs to work out how to get the best out of his veteran pair but also ensure stability at the back – something which a young goalkeeper like De Gea needs.
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