Borini winner lifts Sunderland’s hopes as United slip to third successive defeat
Italian’s 65th-minute penalty hands Gus Poyet’s men a precious first-leg advantage
Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs scores an own goal in last night’s League Cup semi-final first leg game at the Stadium of Light. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Reuters
Sunderland 2 (Giggs 45 og, Borini 65 pen), Manchester United 1 (Vidic 52)
This is threatening to become a season in hell for David Moyes and his Manchester United side. There is still a second leg to come of this semi-final so they are not dead yet and could still reverse fortune to reach Wembley.
Yet this defeat was a third on the trot for United. You have to go back 13 years to find the last time this happened and then they were already confirmed as champions. The 2-1 defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City had set up Moyes to equal the kind of record he is collecting in this trying inaugural term as the successor to Alex Ferguson, who was here and whose thoughts on his former team would fascinate.
Penalty was dubious
Moyes may have a case that the Fabio Borini penalty that sent United on a long journey home was dubious given that Adam Johnson appeared to take a theatrical tumble but the bottom line is that United are finding ways to lose games they once won.
While a resounding win was the order of the day for United the avoidance of defeat was the first priority. To lose a third match in succession was the doomsday scenario Moyes and his men could not contemplate as they sought to ease the demons that had swarmed into their minds during the past two defeats.
The one thing the champions knew was that Gus Poyet would remind his side their opponents were vulnerable and that they should get at them from the start. A glimpse of this came when Sunderland forced an early free-kick down the right but Sebastien Larsson’s delivery was not up to standard.
Then after a Borini shot went wide following Steven Fletcher’s lay-off, the hosts pressing continued. Larsson’s attempt was blocked by Jonny Evans following a clearing header from Nemanja Vidic, whose agent earlier in the day reportedly claimed that a contract extension beyond the summer is currently “ruled out”.
The disjointed nature of those last two defeats was visible again as Ryan Giggs gave possession away easily and the lone striker, Welbeck, appeared isolated. It was Giggs, though, who smacked Vito Mannone’s crossbar with an effort that took a deflection as the half-hour approached and United began to assert themselves.
Adnan Januzaj did his best to take advantage of space created by a Patrice Evra run to smoothly switch the ball from his left to right foot to let go a curler that was blocked by Phil Bardsley. When Rooney and Van Persie are not playing United have the feel of what they currently are: a side of mid-table strugglers. Januzaj is the exception and it was the 18-year-old who had Mannone beaten as the break neared, but the strike was ruled correctly offside.
Before disaster struck
United had been close to limiting Sunderland to just a single Bardsley effort on target before disaster struck on the stroke of half-time. This time Larsson recalibrated his radar to swing in a precise free-kick that hit Wes Brown, and after he turned the ball back across goal it was Giggs who had the final touch as David De Gea was beaten.
Moyes sent out his men early for the restart following some of the more important words he has had to impart before any second half of his managerial career. The response he saw was United camped near Mannone’s goal as first Welbeck, then Evra, tried but failed to let fly at the Italian.
It was Vidic who dragged United back into the tie, rising to a Cleverley corner above Brown and John O’Shea to head past Mannone for an equaliser that the sent the vocal travelling support wild.
Yet when Borini raced down the left before missing narrowly to De Gea’s right, an alarm sounded that became louder when Larsson was allowed too much space to unload at the Spaniard who made a fine save.
Now came Cleverley’s intervention, the midfielder clipping Johnson, just on as a substitute, which persuaded Andre Marriner to give the penalty. Marginal or not, Borini made no mistake from the spot.
United ended the match bombarding the Sunderland goal but, not for the first time, they lacked the decisive touch.
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso, Larsson, Cattermole, Ki, Giaccherini (Johnson 56), Fletcher (Altidore 72), Borini. Subs not used: Gardner, Celustka, Colback, Ji, Dixon. Booked: Giaccherini, Bardsley, Altidore, Mannone.
MANCHESTER UTD: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Evans (Smalling 61), Evra, Carrick, Cleverley (Fletcher 74), Valencia (Hernandez 87), Giggs, Januzaj, Welbeck. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Kagawa, Buttner, Zaha. Booked: Evra, Rafael Da Silva, Smalling. Attendance: 31,547.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).