Manchester United got back to winning ways away at Sunderland on Sunday, defeating the Premier League’s basement side 3-0 at the Stadium of Light. Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford secured a comfortable victory, with the Black Cats having been reduced to 10 late in the opening period.
The game’s first quarter largely passed without incident, with United seeing more of possession but failing to do all that much with it. It took until just short of the half-hour before they gave Sunderland a real scare, with Jesse Lingard skipping through the centre and curling a shot towards the bottom corner; keeper Jordan Pickford kept the scores level with an excellent save low to his left.
However, there was nothing he could do a minute later, when Ibrahimović gave United the advantage almost out of nothing. The situation first seemed innocuous: Zlatan had his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area; however, the Swede needed only a touch to buy himself the space to swivel and strike inside Pickford’s far post. It was another moment of brilliance from the veteran striker.
United had the advantage, but initially failed to press it home. A defensive lapse five minutes before halftime almost resulted in a Sunderland equaliser, though Sergio Romero got down excellently to deny Victor Anichebe from point-blank range.
Sunderland may have been growing in confidence, but they were dealt a terminal blow moments later. The referee wasted no time in brandishing a red card after Sebastian Larsson aimed his studs at the shin of Ander Herrera, and so the Black Cats headed into the break with a sizeable chunk of their midfield missing.
United wasted little time in making their numerical superiority count, doubling their lead within a minute of the restart. Sunderland didn’t get a kick before the ball found its way to Mkhitaryan inside the penalty area, with the Armenian talking full advantage of the space he was granted to slot inside the far post and deal the hosts a coup de grâce.
The visitors remained comfortably in control for the remainder of the match, though it took until the dying moments for them to add a third. It came after a simple one-two between Ibrahimović and substitute Rashford, with the latter driving low inside the far post from the right side of Sunderland’s box.
The win means United provisionally leapfrog Arsenal into fifth place, and move within four points of Manchester City with a game in hand. It should yet be an intriguing end to the Premier League season.