Malcolm Dawson writes

It’s the pantomime season and Sunderland’s defenders had obviously rehearsed long and hard as they totally ignored the cries of “he’s behind you” that echoed around Old Trafford throughout the afternoon. It was difficult to decide whether it was Bramble, Cuellar or O’Shea who was playing the back end of the pantomime donkey as they were all out of step at some point, and just like Cinderella they were too often too late for the ball. There was no genie either, although Frazier Campbell did provide one fan with a moment of magic. We’ll let Pete Sixsmith explain.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE – VOLUME 5

Pete's grim fairytale afternoon in Manchester!

Seeing as we haven’t won at Old Trafford since Bruce Stuckey was a Sunderland player and Brian Statham and Noddy Pullar were plying their trade down the road at the cricket ground, I don’t go to the self styled “Theatre of Dreams” with any great hopes.

There have been some decent performances over the years and some shockers. There was a 4-1 mauling in the 19 point season, a memorable debut for Paul Williams in 1990 when Lee Sharpe destroyed his career and the Cantona game, which must have Dickie Ord hiding behind the sofa every time it appears on some compilation programme that fills up the schedules.

This one wasn’t too bad as bad goes. It could have been 5-0 and it could have been 3-2 – and had it been 3-2 who knows what might have happened.

But it wasn’t. In fact, when Tom Cleverley scored the second, I thought there was a chance that the hiding administered to Ipswich Town a few years ago (9-0) was on. That it wasn’t was due to a combination of strong goalkeeping, careless finishing and a general United feeling that they just couldn’t be bothered.

To go two down in twenty minutes means that there is precious little chance of getting back into the game. That both goals were due to woeful defending didn’t help.

The first one was a feeble attempt by Cuellar and Johnson (a right wing combination which would struggle to terrorise the likes of Penrith) to “tackle” Young. His cross was shinned out by O’Shea, straight to van Persie, who could have walked over to the errant Eire international and shook his hand before dispatching it into the net. Had Shildon Sunderland Supporters F.C. done something similar, buckets would have been kicked and water bottles would have been scattered to the four corners of whatever pitch we were playing on.

United then scored a lovely goal, although the fact that Cleverley was allowed so much room by our “defence” contributed to it. We really must try to tackle opponents. It does help.

By this time United were playing some silky football
, but apparently it wasn’t good enough to rouse the crowd from their slumbers. I gather that Fergie has been quite critical of them and I can see why. Do they not exult in the quality of their players? Do they only wake up when they play City or Liverpool ? The ground was almost as quiet as Highbury used to be and Ashburton Grove is now. I know that United fans can be passionate, but they seem like the family who have over indulged on the turkey, sprouts and chocolates and who can’t appreciate a beautifully made Christmas Pudding.

Puddings describes us for the remainder of the first half. Fortunately, Rooney, Evra and van Persie all decided that it was more fun to pick off people in the crowd rather than add to our embarrassment and we trooped off at half time looking like a well beaten side.

Fletcher did not re-appear after the break and was replaced by Connor Wickham, who continued his progress by barging about and unsettling the previously settled United defenders. He is beginning to look like a real prospect. It would be interesting to see him paired with Fletcher at Southampton next week.

However, any hopes of a revival were snuffed out when Cuellar and Bramble allowed van Persie to wriggle between them and set up Rooney to finish the game. Cuellar is patently not a full back and would have been better employed in the centre of defence instead of the woeful Bramble, who is surely heading for a Championship club in January.

This is the area that MON must to strengthen in the upcoming window. We don’t have a centre half that dominates, talks or clears the ball. Michael Dawson’s name has been mentioned. He can’t be any worse than the current crop; O’Shea and Cuellar lack mobility, Bramble is incredibly slow and lacks concentration while Kilgallon is not strong enough. This is the area that will drag us down in 2013.

United’s pace and sheer ability made our midfield look as pedestrian as ever. Gardner worked hard as did McClean, but any thoughts of playing Larsson in the centre of midfield must have disappeared by now. He can’t do it and I expect David Meyler to be in the middle next week. He scored again for Hull and, according to the Football Echo, O’Neill has spoken to Bruce about re-calling him.

We did pull a goal back, which showed the weaknesses that United have at the back. However, when they go forward so effectively, they can cover up these deficiencies. They fell asleep as Sessegnon’s deep cross was headed in by Campbell and were rattled a little as we pushed forward in search of a second that might have had sphincters squeaking in the quiet seats – all 73,200 of them.

Jake's take on Frazier


Once again, we came back reasonably well in the second half, but we were already 3 down – just like we were to Chelsea . All this does is paper over the cracks and partly alleviate the awful defending that had put us in this position. Since the West Bromwich game we have conceded a number of totally avoidable goals which have sent us sliding down the table and which have also worsened our goal difference. Not great, is it?

At least there was one happy Sunderland fan. A group of Dutch fans were sat behind me, one of whom was attending his seventh Sunderland game and had never seen us score. When Frazier’s header hit the net, he was mobbed by his mates and spent the rest of the game with a huge smile on his face.

A consolation goal at Old Trafford – that just about sums us up at the moment. I hope that Southampton score a consolation goal next week – but I’m not holding my breath.

Colin Randall disguised as Monsieur Salut, by Matt


See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739



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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

24 Responses to “Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland’s visit to Man United was a real fairytale – grim!” Subscribe

  1. Bill Taylor December 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Fairy tale? We may be an ugly duckling right now but there’s a swan in there somewhere….

  2. Mike Sixsmith December 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Bill, to quote Danny Kaye,”Me a swan? Aw, go on!”

  3. Bill Taylor December 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    “Waddaya think of it so far?”

    “Rubbish!”

  4. vince December 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Well the usual drubbing at ManU…will I aver see a win there….rhetorical.

    Would agree about the centre back dilemma.Cloughie always started along the spine of the team,and he must be looking down thinking we need 2 stalwarts bringing in for sure.MON has tried,I do like Cuellar as he is good in the air and can think his way out of the back four.He is limited pace wise.O Shea is a big useless dumpling and merely resorts to hoofing(when he can get near the ball).Don’t ask me who…Ive no idea, but I know a crock when I see one…and even our fans take the mickey out of Titus.

    It is a shambles in there, let us be honest.The rest of the spine looks absent too…with midfield and centre forward spots to be “filled” as yet.About the only peg he has in place is Mignolet.Long way to go yet then.

  5. Bill Taylor December 17, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Meanwhile, over at Unsecured Loans Park, Scrooge Pardew has seized his moment:
    http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/10112531.Newcastle_United_stars_cancel_Christmas/?ref=mmsp

  6. Jeremy December 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Well, that seems to be the complete irony of “the spine” philosophy. Clough was right and always made a point of having the best keeper he could get. Shilton and Van Breukelen etc. MON sees it the same way and that was why his first aquistions were Cuellar and Fletcher.

    Clough was right and so is O’Neill in following likewise. I don’t think Clough would have seen Cuellar as the right sort of material for the centre back position when you consider the likes of Needham, Burns etc and then Walker in the later years. BC liked a great big strong centre half and arguably the closest to that mould is Kilgallon above the others.

    Despite the criticism that Fletcher is getting in some quarters (not from me I hasten to add), he fits the bill. Regardless of whether your spine is strong or weak if your midfield is complete dross you could have Beckenbauer at the back, Banks in goal and Van Basten up front but you would possibly still struggle if their efforts were being assisted by the likes of Colback, Larsson and O’Shea.

    • vince December 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

      Jeremy,
      Yes I forgot to say Fletcher is also good enough to be considered in our spine.I was not sure before he came but now I have seen him, he’ll do for me.

      With Cuellar time will tell, but he is the best we have at present.Another good young centre back to compliment him,why not.

  7. Neil December 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Apropos nothing, now that the 16000 crowd at the Sports Personality OTY award have done the Poznan…..does this mean the Mancs hate them (all) as well? That said, respect to Ferguson regarding the asinine comments from Shearer regarding MON. Can Shearer really be regarded as impartial on MOTD? That his commentary is simplistic, descriptive drivel seems to be a given. Time for him to retire to the golf course methinks. By comparison Neville is the real deal. In terms of analysis and evaluation Shearer is a sheep in wolf’s clothing

  8. Geordiedoonsooth December 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I know we hate each other and have a chuckle when the other loses. But I’ve just looked at the PL table and wouldn’t it be good if we could be in Spurs and Arsenal’s position 4th & 5th and chasing a ECL spot instead of fighting relegation. I’d much rather take the p out of you lot if we were top and you were second. Being an exiled Geordie it’s hard to take when people say NE football is sh*t.

    • malcolm December 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

      Welcome back Geordie. We know you don’t hate us really. Most of us who grew up with Neville and House and then moved away are pro North East first and foremost. The only thing I will take issue with is the obvious.

      At the moment I am just grateful that we have QPR, Reading, Southampton and Norwich in this division. The January window will be interesting but I suspect it may be better for us than you – we don’t have to worry about losing a quality player like you do with Demba Ba.

      • John Mac December 18, 2012 at 11:53 am #

        and Wigan?

        • malcolm December 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

          I meant Wigan not Norwich! Going senile!

          • John Mac December 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

            I put the question mark in because I think Martinez is an excellent manager who gets the best out of a limited squad, but maybe he’ll just not manage to overcome the odds one season

  9. Bill Taylor December 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Remember how we fretted about the chance of losing Sessegnon? Chance might have been a fine thing!

  10. Jeremy December 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    It’s a good thread lads. It must be Christmas when we can agree with Geordie about something :-)

    Vince. You are absolutely spot on. Who would the player be? I’m struggling to think of names here. Any suggestions anybody?

    Cuellar is a patchy sort of performer but as you say we have to make do with what we have at the moment.

    • William C December 18, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      If we have the money, I would suggest Dawson from Spurs. Good player, and a leader on the pitch.

    • vince December 18, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

      I already said…don’t ask me….its not my job,my job is to do the critique on the mugs we do get.havent we got scouts and analysts doing all that sort of thing?…Ive no idea about talented centre backs in the lower divisons to be honest.

      Maybe we need a younger but experienced CB…like Shawcross?????

  11. Ian_SAfc December 18, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    I think we’re being a little unfair on Cuellar. When a centre back has a good game almost nobody notices, but when they make a mistake they are a clownified.
    I think Cuellar and O Shea are our best available pairing. Maybe with a fit and firing Brown its better(?).
    With Rose and a good RB, our back 4 should be good. I don’t think Bardsley has hit form yet. I like Gardner in midfield more.

    Ideally I’d like to see a good solid RB in the transfer window and a strong dynamic central midfielder. We desperately need a strong midfield.

    • malcolm December 18, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Love that word. Let’s hope the clownified Cuellar will show bouncebackability!

  12. Jeremy December 18, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    Maybe so Ian.

    Could we solve the problem at least temporarily here?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/dec/17/joleon-lescott-manchester-city-mario-balotelli

  13. Goldy December 18, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I asked O’Neill if he was hoping to add his own spine of the team last week – i.e CM and a CD.

    Shall I dig the quotes out?

  14. Jeremy December 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    H’way Goldy man. Tell us the news. No good keeping it to yourself. :-)

  15. Goldy December 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Will do little scribble this week and include them in. Nothing that will stop the presses.

  16. Geordiedoonsooth December 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    My post must be the only time Geordies & Mackems have agreed about anything. Merry Xmas to all you SMB’s and I hope you are below us in the PL at the end of the season but still in the PL. It’s much better when we play each other every year. Lets hope both teams can have a good season next year (as long as we finish above you :-) )

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