As the Red Devils made the trip to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, it was expected to be an interesting game against Sunderland in the Premier League. Manchester United were not in the best of forms in recent times and were looking for consistency, in order to finish in the top four once again. The hosts took the lead when Wahbi Khazri’s strike beat David de Gea quite early in the game, as he scored on the 3rd minute of the match. The Dutchman manager’s side were able to equalize before half-time, when Anthony Martial made it 1-1 in the 39th minute. The two sides went into the break level, with everything to play in the second half.

The two teams tried to take the lead once agian, though De Gea managed to keep the scores level for Louis van Gaal’s side. Despite the Spaniard’s best efforts, it was his bad luck that the Black Cats took the lead towards the end, when a shot bounced back off of him into the net and the home side were able to secure all three points on the night.

Here are five talking points from United’s loss against the Black Cats:

5. Consistency is still a major problem for United:
The Dutchman’s side have not shown consistency right through the season. After some good solid performances, there have been some poor ones as well. When the team really need to pull their socks up and perform, they have failed to do so at times. Certain players have put in exceptional performances in some games, while have been unable to live up to expectations in others. If Van Gaal is serious about a top four finish, which now seems next to impossible, he will want his players to regularly perform at the top level.

4. Flaws in the tactics:
The strategy employed by Van Gaal has not really helped the Manchester based side, as they have not been able to produce wins when really needed. United have dropped points in some crucial games, though injuries have also played a part in it. The Dutchman has further been experimenting and shuffling his players around which has caused some unrest in the team. Also, the fans are not really impressed by the tactics employed and a section is demanding the dismissal of the former Ajax and Bayern boss.

3. Defensive weakness exposed once again:
Louis van Gaal himself blamed poor defending for the loss in the game and the problems at the back just seem to keep growing, with Matteo Darmian dislocating his shoulder in the match. The players have been shuffled around at times and though Daley Blind and Chris Smalling have been preffered at the center of the back four, it remains to be seem who will be picked to play at the left-back and right-back positions, after both Luke Shaw and Darmian are now out and Rojo has had his problems as well.

2. Need for more quality additions:
United should have added some more quality stars to their squad with the way things were going in the recently concluded transfer window. The Premier League giants are clearly in need of more star players, who can perform at the top level and provide that spark which is missing in their performances at present. The January window has gone by and now if Van Gaal does manage to stay at the club or his successor will surely have to sign more players as soon as possible.

1. Time is ticking for Van Gaal:
The Dutch boss needs to turn things around as soon as possible if he hopes to remain at the club. It was the top four finish that kept him at Old Trafford last season and if he fails to deliver that feat this time around, it could mean the end for him at United. There is a lot of pressure on not just the players to perform, but the manager as well and what happens next, only time will tell.