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Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United: Reds succumb to disappointing defeat

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Manchester United's hopes of Champions League qualification took a hit in a 2-1 defeat to struggling Sunderland.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United reverted to type at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of relegation strugglers Sunderland.

It took only three minutes for Sunderland to open the scoring, with Wahbi Khazri opening his Premier League account direct from a fairly innocuous-looking free-kick. Perhaps thrown off by a mistimed Jermain Defoe waft, David de Gea couldn't stop the ball swinging inside his far post. It was almost 2-0 a few minutes later, though Defoe again miskicked amid a goalmouth scramble.

As the clock ticked on, so United began to look increasingly comfortable in possession. However, they had their usual difficulty of converting their control into goalscoring chances; when Juan Mata was thwarted by Vito Mannone from the edge of the area after half-time, it was the visitors' first shot of the entire match. Sunderland, in contrast, had taken seven.

Still, United eventually found an opening with just over five minutes of the first half remaining. A good shot by Mata was parried by Mannone into the path of Anthony Martial, whose deft flick found the back of the net from a tight angle. It was a very smart finish, and Louis van Gaal's side were level.

Sunderland made an alarmingly bright start to the second half, and only a brilliant last-ditch intervention by Daley Blind prevented Defoe from prodding the Black Cats back into the lead a few minutes after the restart. Just past the hour Dame N'Doye was sent through on goal, though he was denied by the legs of de Gea in the one-on-one.

It took until the final 10 minutes of the match, but eventually the hosts retook the lead. A completely unmarked Lamine Kone ghosted in at the back post, with the belated efforts of Chris Smalling unable to stop him powering a header goalwards. The ball squeezed through the Spaniard's legs, and despite the best efforts of Anthony Martial on the goalline, it went in off the goalkeeper's back.