Manchester United’s top-four hopes suffered another setback as goalkeeper David De Gea’s own goal cost them a 2-1 defeat at Premier League strugglers Sunderland on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s side had improved since the turn of the year but the gloom descended again on a raw day in north east as they slipped to a defeat that left them six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City having played one more game.
Anthony Martial equalised for United shortly before halftime after Wahbi Khazri’s third-minute free kick evaded De Gea who was embarrassed again eight minutes from time when he diverted Lamine Kone’s header into his own goal.
Defeat boosted second-from-bottom Sunderland’s survival hopes and left United looking down rather than up as Southampton closed to within a point of them in sixth after Shane Long’s goal sealed a 1-0 win at Swansea City.
“Today was very similar to the way the Manchester City game went but this time we got what we deserved from the chances we created,” Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce told BT Sport, referring to his team’s 1-0 defeat by Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
“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.”
United captain Wayne Rooney said his team had not done enough to win the match and were now struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
“We know it wasn’t good enough today,” Rooney said. “We weren’t aggressive enough and it’s very disappointing.
“We did not win enough second balls and did not defend set-pieces properly and it has cost us,” the England striker added.
“It will be difficult for us to make the top four now, we know that.”
West Ham United are also a point behind United after coming back from two goals down at Norwich to draw 2-2.
West Bromwich Albion eased their relegation fears, winning 1-0 at mid-table Everton, but Bournemouth’s 3-1 home defeat by Stoke City left the south coast club too close to the bottom three for comfort.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored his first goal since joining Crystal Palace but could not prevent a sixth defeat in seven matches for Alan Pardew’s side who were beaten 2-1 at home by Watford.
Chelsea host Newcastle United later on Saturday.
The Premier League’s top four all play on Sunday with leaders Leicester City at third-placed Arsenal before fourth-placed Manchester City host second-placed Tottenham Hotspur.