Manchester United’s poor start to the season continued as they drew 1-1 with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Louis van Gaal’s side took the lead in the 17th minute through Juan Mata but that was cancelled out 13 minutes later by the Black Cats’ summer signing Jack Rodwell.
The result means United have just one point from their opening two Premier League games.
Here are five things we learned from United’s latest match:
One goal not good enough
In the past, United going ahead in a match almost always meant one thing – three points in the bag. But now the Red Devils taking the lead does not concern the opposition the way it used to. The fragility in United’s back-line is such that opponents will be confident of equalising as long as van Gaal’s side continue to play as they did – especially in the first half – yesterday.
Two goals in their opening two matches is simply not good enough.
The defence needs real quality…and fast
Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw will strengthen United’s back-line and both would have made a difference against Sunderland. But van Gaal still needs an experienced centre-back to command the side in a way that the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are not yet able to.
The return of Jonny Evans will be a bonus, but Mehdi Benatia would be perfect if United can convince Roma to sell before next Tuesday.
The front-three must step up
Mata may have scored his first goal of the season on Sunday, but he, along with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, must do more to ensure United’s struggles are not prolonged. That front-three is the envy of many clubs across Europe but they did little against Sunderland and must step up.
The lack of creativity from midfield is clear, but that is no excuse for quality goal-scorers not to create chances for themselves when their teammates are not able to. Three shots on target in 90 minutes of football simply is not good enough.
Blackett needs time, but he could be outstanding
Tyler Blackett again took to the field for United, but his performance was far less composed than the one seen at Old Trafford on the opening day against Swansea City. That said, he still made some vital challenges and could be set for a succesful career at Old Trafford.
But he is not the answer in the short-term, with substitute Michael Keane another who should be given time to develop, not placed with the weight of expectation on his shoulders in the absence of an experienced alternative.
Tom Cleverley is not a van Gaal type of player
Soon after van Gaal’s appointment Tom Cleverley announced that he was the Dutchman’s type of player, and yet against Sunderland he was anything but. The England international was disappointing throughout and highlighted the lack of quality in central midfield that has been obvious to outside observers for the last few seasons.