Juan Mata Manchester United Sunderland
Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata scores against Sunderland in their English Premier League gameReuters

There was no shock loss this time around, but there was no inspirational, this-Manchester-United-side-might-just-be-title-contenders-after-all kind of performance either as the Louis Van Gaal era continued to exist rather nervously in the English Premier League.

After taking an early lead via the boot of Juan Mata, Manchester United had the perfect platform to show their capabilities at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, but, instead, that rather worrying defence and midfield, one that has been debilitated by injury, it must be said, kept causing them problems, with Jack remember-me Rodwell thumping home a header to level the scoreline for Sunderland.

The Black Cats could have easily landed a more telling scratch on Van Gaal and his United side had they shown a little more quality going forward, but in the end, United did enough to ensure the match would end 1-1 and with it give them their first points of this season's Premier League.

The 3-5-2 (more like a 5-3-2) was very much evident with Manchester United again, with that relatively inexperienced defence looking shakier than salt in a salt-shaker. Sunderland could sense the vulnerability right from the off, and put the Manchester side under early pressure, with Connor Wickham and the extremely impressive Will Buckley almost carving them wide open on a couple of occasions.

However, despite plenty of forward momentum, the final thrust was just missing, and it was United who took the lead, a little bit against the run of play, in the 17th minute via their first real attack of note of the game.

Antonio Valencia, playing as a wing-back, stormed down the right -- one of the few times he did that in the entire game -- and planted a nicely driven low cross which found its way through to Juan Mata at the far post with the playmaker getting in ahead of Sebastian Larrson to tap home.

Sunderland did not panic after conceding that goal, though, and Manchester United did not exactly push forward from that opener either, with the home side looking quite capable of getting that equaliser before the halftime whistle.

After a couple of nearly-theres, they would make it 1-1 right on the half hour, with Rodwell, the often-injured and ignored former Manchester City man, left all alone in the penalty area to rise high and power home a header, off a corner from Larsson, into the back of the net.

While Manchester United had that glamour front three of Mata, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney back together, it was Sunderland who always looked capable of finding the third goal of the match with Wickham coming extremely close of doing just that early in the second 45.

The Sunderland forward did exceedingly well to create space for a shot inside the box with a nice touch, before firing in a strike which was headed well wide before Tyler Blackett nearly deflected the ball into his own net.

Manchester United, with three young central defenders in Blackett, Michael Keane, who came in late in the first half for an injured Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones, did reasonably well in the second half to see off the Sunderland pressure, as the away side improved considerably, even if not enough, in the secnd half.

However, with Van Persie withdrawn, Mata and Rooney's influence waning and substitutes Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj unable to get a grip on the game, the goal just did not look like coming for United either, with Ashley Young, the left wing-back, who was given a yellow card for diving earlier on, looking the liveliest, but not lively enough to hand Van Gaal his first Premier League victory as Manchester United manager.

Other results: Hull 1-1 Stoke; Tottenham 4-0 QPR.

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