Manchester United was condemned to a third consecutive 2-1 defeat at the start of 2014 today as Sunderland won the first leg of their League Cup semifinal to add to manager David Moyes' troubles.
Fabio Borini scored from the penalty spot in the 65th minute to ensure Sunderland, which is bottom of the Premier League, has the edge going into the second leg at Old Trafford on Jan. 22.
Sunderland took the lead when 40-year-old United veteran Ryan Giggs inadvertently bundled the ball into his own net just before halftime when under pressure from Phil Bardsley.
Nemanja Vidic headed United level in the 52nd, but a comeback was thwarted by United midfielder Tom Cleverley fouling Adam Johnson to concede the penalty.
And Moyes, emulating predecessor Alex Ferguson, resorted to blaming referees for United's poor run.
"I feel we are having to play the opposition and the officials at this moment in time," Moyes said.
"Maybe I've got to understand that's what happens at Man United. But if we do, we certainly aren't getting much in our favour at this moment in time."
Borini's goal extended United's miserable start to the year, which has now seen a hat trick of 2-1 losses for Moyes' side.
United, which won the Premier League by 11 points last season, is now 11 points behind leader Arsenal after losing to Tottenham on New Year's Day.
And the FA Cup quest ended at the first hurdle on Sunday as Swansea won their third round meeting at Old Trafford.
"(The fans) know we are going through a difficult time," Moyes said. "They have probably never seen it as bad as this for a long tine. But I am determined to put it right, I'm sure we will."
But the outlook isn't completely bleak for Moyes, who is halfway through his first season since replacing Alex Ferguson. His team is still in the Champions League and faces Olympiakos in the round of 16 next month.
The 72-year-old Ferguson, though, continues to loom large over his successor, watching at the Stadium of Light in his role as a United director on another miserable night for the club he managed for more than 26 trophy-laden years.
With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney injured, Moyes was relying on Danny Welbeck for goals. However, the striker was shackled by a defense including former United defenders Wes Brown and John O'Shea.