Sunderland gained the upper hand on Manchester United by deservedly winning their League Cup semi-final, first leg 2-1 on Tuesday to intensify the pressure on visiting manager David Moyes after a testing week.
Italian Fabio Borini scored a second-half penalty to give the Premier League’s bottom club a one-goal lead ahead of the return at Old Trafford after a 52nd minute Nemanja Vidic header cancelled out Ryan Giggs’s own goal in first-half stoppage time.
It was United’s third straight defeat after they were beaten at home in the FA Cup third round by Swansea City on Sunday and by Tottenham Hotspur in the league the previous week, heaping pressure on Moyes in his first season in charge.
The second leg will be on Jan. 22 to decide who will face either favourites Manchester City or West Ham United, who play at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, in the final on March 2.
For beleaguered United manager Moyes, the League Cup has developed added significance with the club already out of the FA Cup, looking unlikely to retain their Premier League title and long odds to win the Champions League.
For the fans who booed them off the pitch following the loss to Swansea, there was little to perk up the spirits.
This was the first time since 1932 that United had lost their opening three games of the year and the first time since 1992 that they had lost three times in a week.
Moyes blamed the officials, who he criticised for awarding Sunderland the free kick that led to the first goal, rather than his players who he described as being “unbelievable”.
“It looks as though we are having to play them (the officials) as well as the opposition at the moment,” he said.
“I thought the players, our crowd were unbelievable, the players deserved to get a result. It’s a two-legged game and I am really looking forward to the second leg.”