Two matches, and Louis van Gaal is still without a win at Manchester United.
The defense still looked shaky and the attack disjointed as Sunderland nicked a point off the Red Devils and kept them winless through the first two Premier League matches of the year.
Former Manchester City young gun Jack Rodwell scored on his second Sunderland start and cancelled out Juan Mata’s early score to split the spoils.
It was a rough start for Manchester United’s defenders still learning Louis van Gaal’s 3-at-the-back system, as their defenders continually allowed opponents in behind them and made poor passes that were often cut out.
Will Buckley looked bright along the Sunderland flank, and he earned two fouls as United continued to play without their heads.
Despite these, Manchester United picked up the game’s first chance, and they were incisive enough to snatch the game’s first goal. Against the run of play, Antonio Valencia worked a deflected cross on the right flank and it found the end of Juan Mata’s run for the Spaniard to poke home for a lead after 17 minutes.
Sunderland continued to be bright, especially Buckley who ran rampant down the right, and he earned a corner on the half-hour mark. Jack Rodwell headed the corner into the back of the net after losing Tyler Blackett, and Sunderland were level.
There was little else from the first half other than a half-chance that Steven Fletcher whiffed with a bicycle kick, and Chris Smalling was forced off with a hamstring injury.
Manchester United didn’t look any sharper in the second half, and Connor Wickham nearly earned Sunderland the lead five minutes after the break when a beautiful touch scooped the ball over Darren Fletcher’s head before unleashing a volley that cannoned off Tyler Blackett and just evaded the post.
Robin van Persie did have an opportunity in the 61st minute, but his lovely feed from Mata and Fletcher resulted in a heavy touch from the Dutchman as he latched onto the ball.
Just one minute later, Manchester United had a pair of chances, with both van Persie and Ashley Young going to ground in the penalty area. Referee Martin Atkinson waved off both challenges, and booked Young for diving in the process. There was definitely contact on both challenges, but van Persie’s was a good challenge by John O’Shea, and Young anticipated contact with Wes Brown the whole way through.
United thought they had a breakthrough in the 78th minute when substitute Danny Welbeck played a beautiful ball across the pitch to spring open Ashley Young behind the defenders, but Vito Mannone came well out of the box to thwart the attack.
That was about it, as United pressed and pressed and pressed for a goal as time wound down, but Sunderland defended bravely and looked to nick something off the counter. Gus Poyet brought in Jozy Altidore with 13 minutes to go and he looked most dangerous on the break. But it would not be as the sides shared the points.