Sunday, September 02, 2007

United scrape past Sunderland to put more pressure on Keane...

United fans had been eagerly looking forward to the visit of Roy Keane and Sunderland ever since the fixture list was drawn. However, another red legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stole the pre-match reception with his farewell Old Trafford walk-on part to say his thank you to the fans who in turn reciprocated. Keane had left United under a cloud after famously falling out with his manager, but the waters have been somewhat calmed over the passage of time and everyone connected with United will be hoping that he can turn Sunderland around in his first managerial appointment.

Against United there wasn't a lot to suggest that the remainder of the Black Cats season will be anything but a backs-to-the-wall struggle as the visitors lacked any sort of creativity in midfield or punch up front, and that is despite the recent addition of £6m man Kenwyne Jones.

Keane will soon be able to call upon the services of another ex-United star in Andy Cole. Apparently Keane has nine players with former United connections plus two others on his management team taking the K-Club to eleven, so Sunderland is something of a reds old boys outpost.

The Black Cats have lost four games on the bounce and having spent £34m on players, fans and his backers alike will rightly be expecting results. Someone recently said that if you keep on buying first division players, eventually that is where you will end up and having watched Sunderland play four times this season that maxim is looking ominous for Keane and the Black Cats.

But what about United and their lack of goals? Against Sunderland in the first half especially the reds looked fairly clueless at times. Scholes, Wes Brown and new boy Anderson didn't play well at all. United were all too often guilty wasting possession and with no recognised striker up front the reds never looked like breaking down the Sunderland back four.

In midfield the reds had control but time and time again they couldn't find a way through. At half-time Louis Saha was introduced when he replaced the largely ineffective Anderson and straight away United looked more dangerous going forward. Saha brought about the save of the day, when he controlled the ball, turned and shot in one movement which resulted in a fine save from the excellent Gordon.

The goal eventually came from a set-piece when Saha headed a corner home to end Sunderland's stern resistance. However, in all honesty while the Reds can claim to have had the lions share of possession, they didn't test Gordon enough and Sunderland where comfortable all afternoon, which should be of concern to Fergie as the Black Cats are going to take some beatings on their travels this season.

Going off Roy Keane's reaction throughout the game, he looks to have lost that thin veneer of early season calmness and the old rage was all too often self-evident. If Keane is going to last the season he will have to learn to how to deal with the pressure of being a manager. Right now the signs do not good for Sunderland or the Irishman.

As for the remainder of United's season, once again Hargreaves looked very good and Nani is settling in well. Tevez is largely playing from memory, he badly needs resting and perhaps now that Saha is back the Reds will give the Argentine a break.

The good news is that Ronaldo will soon be back and Rooney wont be far behind him, perhaps then we will see the real United. Let us hope that we don't lose sight of Liverpool who are looking ominously good as I predicted they would be on this blog before the season start.

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