English Premier League 2015-16

Late David de Gea own goal dents Manchester United’s top-four hopes in Sunderland reversal

Struggling Sunderland snatch 2-1 victory – their first over the Red Devils on Wearside in the Premier League in 19 years – and it heaps more pressure on under-fire manager Louis van Gaal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 February, 2016, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 February, 2016, 11:05am

David de Gea’s cruel 82nd-minute own goal condemned Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United to a 2-1 defeat at struggling Sunderland on Saturday that compromised their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

Bidding to close a six-point gap separating them from fourth-place Manchester City, United fell behind in the third minute when Wahbi Khazri’s free kick from out on the left eluded everyone and crept in at the far post.

It will be difficult for us to make the top four now, we know that
United captain Wayne Rooney

Anthony Martial equalised in the 39th minute, but Sunderland took the points when Martial’s attempt to clear Lamine Kone’s header off the line struck goalkeeper De Gea’s arm and rolled into the net.

United fell to a first league defeat on Wearside for 19 years and became the first top-half team that struggling Sunderland have beaten this season in 14 attempts.

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It was United’s seventh league defeat of the season and it will only serve to fuel speculation about the position of their manager Van Gaal, amid reports that the club have approached Jose Mourinho to succeed him.

But when asked if the defeat at the Stadium of Light put him under more pressure, he replied: “No. I have to do my work and I do my work to my utmost best and I cannot do more.

“I shall prepare my players against Midtjylland [in the Europa League] 100 per cent and I shall do that always.”

Defeat was doubly frustrating for United as with fourth-place Manchester City hosting Tottenham Hotspur and leaders Leicester City visiting third-place Arsenal on Sunday, they had a chance to make ground on the top four.

United were also pegged back by a late goal in their previous game, conceding a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Chelsea, and Van Gaal conceded that their top-four hopes were fading.

“It will be very difficult now because we give five points away, Chelsea and now,” he said. “It’s too much at this time.”

Van Gaal agreed when it was put to him that United’s best chance of reaching the Champions League is to win the Europa League.

“After this match, I think that is the best route,” he said. “But that’s not so easy because a lot of very good teams are participating in this event.”

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney told BT Sport: “We did not create enough chances and were not aggressive enough. We did not win enough second balls and did not defend set pieces properly, and it has cost us.

“It will be difficult for us to make the top four now, we know that.”

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce said: “Today was very similar to the way the Manchester City game went [which Sunderland lost 1-0] but this time we got what we deserved from the chances we created.

“I thought we might be punished for not taking them and wondered whether it was going to go our way, but it ended up being an unbelievable win for us.”

In other games, Stoke City ended a poor recent run with a clinical 3-1 victory at Bournemouth, Norwich capitulated late after looking poised for a first league win in six attempts to be held to a 2-2 draw at home by West Ham United, Swansea lost 1-0 at home to Southampton – their first loss under new coach Francesco Guidolin, West Bromwich Albion produced a dogged defensive performance after grabbing an early goal to beat Everton 1-0 away and Watford struck late to win 2-1 away at Crystal Palace.