LOUIS VAN GAAL was left waiting for his first Premier League win after Manchester United’s unconvincing start to the season continued with a 1-1 draw at Sunderland.
Juan Mata’s early close-range goal at the Stadium of Light was cancelled out before half-time by former Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell’s powerful header, as the former champions again looked anything but title material.
United manager van Gaal, who has admitted winning the Premier League in his first season in charge after succeeding the sacked David Moyes would require a “miracle”, was left with plenty to ponder after his team were outplayed for long periods by a side who only narrowly avoided relegation last term.
On this evidence, the Dutchman needs to bring in significantly more reinforcements than Angel di Maria, the Argentinian international who has been linked to a €75 million move from Real Madrid, before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
United now have one point from their first two games following the opening day defeat at home to Swansea City, and although they took the lead, it came as little surprise when Gus Poyet’s side deservedly levelled in an open encounter on Wearside.
Sunderland had been on top for the opening quarter of an hour in the prelude to United opening the scoring, the first goal coming moments after Connor Wickham had wasted a clear opening to put the hosts ahead.
The England Under-21 forward shot tamely at David de Gea when given clear sight of goal from 15 yards by an astute pass from Will Buckley.
Wickham’s wastefulness proved costly when, in the 17th minute, Antonio Valencia easily beat Patrick van Aanholt to deliver a low cross from the right which Mata met at the far post, despite the attentions of Seb Larsson.
Sunderland, who have now drawn their opening two games, equalised before the half-hour mark as the visitors’ defensive frailties were once again exposed.
Larsson delivered a routine near-post corner, and England international Rodwell was given the freedom of the six-yard box to head past de Gea after being allowed a free run by his marker Valencia.
United’s cause was not helped by Robin van Persie missing a chance to head clear before Rodwell, a £10m pre-season signing from champions Manchester City, made telling contact on his home debut.
Van Persie was one of three changes for a United side without new signing Marcos Rojo.
The Argentina international is awaiting a work permit following a £16m move from Sporting Lisbon.
Van Persie lasted just over an hour on his return before being substituted by compatriot van Gaal, the forward’s exit came after his most eye-catching contribution, when it took a fine saving tackle from Santiago Vergini to halt a purposeful run inside the area.
The ball broke to Ashley Young, who was rightly cautioned for his attempt to earn a penalty with a theatrical dive as he came under challenge from former United defender Wes Brown.
Sunderland were soon back on the offensive, and Larsson should have done better when put through by Steven Fletcher.
However, the Swede delayed to allow Adnan Januzaj to block the midfielder’s shot from 15 yards as the visitors were again caught short of numbers at the back.
With Wayne Rooney a peripheral figure for most of the game, United created only half-chances late on in their attempts to force the contest’s decisive third goal. Substitute Michael Keane headed Mata’s corner straight at Vito Mannone.
The Sunderland ‘keeper had to be alert to sprint out of his area to clear at the feet of Young, whose low long-distance effort, comfortably saved by Mannone, proved to be United’s last attempt on goal.