Match Report: Man United 3 – 1 Sunderland

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TKTG brings together the best articles from around the web on Man Utd’s 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford.

Match Report:  ESPNFC

Robin van Persie’s 15th goal of the season ensured Manchester United will spend Christmas Day on top of the Premier League tree as they eased past Sunderland 3-1.

Tom Cleverley’s first league goal at Old Trafford and Wayne Rooney’s fifth in four games were enough to keep United six points clear of neighbours City, with Frazier Campbell’s header against his old club scant consolation for the Wearsiders, who remain deep in relegation trouble.

Yet perhaps the most significant moment of the entire game came with Nemanja Vidic’s introduction midway through the second half.

Plagued by injuries since August 2011, Vidic’s absence during last season’s run-in contributed to United’s defensive wobbles and the Serbian is viewed as the main way of plugging the leaks that have been so obvious for a side who have still only kept three clean sheets all season.

Not for the first time, Sir Alex Ferguson used the build-up to offer support to an under-fire colleague, only for his team to dismantle them 24 hours later. In ridiculing those who questioned Martin O’Neill’s credentials, Ferguson was ignoring statistics that showed the Black Cats had won just twice in the Premier League this season, both on home soil against teams – Wigan and Reading – that are alongside them in the mire.

Read the ESPNFC report

BBC: Manchester United almost embarrassed by Sunderland – Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson says his Manchester United players were fortunate to escape being embarrassed by Sunderland.

United restored their six-point lead at the top of the table after goals by Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney earned a 3-1 win.

But Ferguson was unimpressed that United almost allowed the struggling visitors back into the match.

“Sunderland could have had two or three towards the end; it could have been embarrassing,” said the United manager.

The Black Cats suffered a third defeat in four Premier League games but kept fighting, pulling a goal back through substitute Fraizer Campbell and enjoying the best of the final 20 minutes, much to Ferguson’s frustration.

“For an hour we were fantastic,” Ferguson added.

“I don’t know if we relaxed or Sunderland picked up the baton 20 minutes from time.

“They could have scored two or three goals. But Sunderland deserved a goal because they worked so hard for it. They had a lot of energy in the second half. They have a youngish team and kept going.”

Read the BBC report by Ben Smith

Goal.com: Best strike force in Europe? Rooney & Van Persie can win the lot for Manchester United

Robin Van Persie collects the ball, drives on, beautifully beats two men at the byline and looks up for a fleeting moment. Onrushing is Wayne Rooney – Van Persie knows that of course – who collects the Dutchman’s centre to crash in Manchester United’s third goal against aSunderland side who at that point were epitomised by the hapless Titus Bramble, nutmegged in the build-up.

In truth, as bad as Bramble was, not many defenders in the Premier League, nay, in Europe, could live with the frighteningly quick train of thought and power of United’s front two.

In 2012 – and accounting for Van Persie’s end to last season with Arsenal – the pair have scored 44 and assisted 18 goals in the Premier League. To put that into perspective, Liverpool as a whole have found the net 39 times. The way the lethal duo are playing at the moment means they could hit 50 before the year is out. Swansea, Newcastle and West Brom beware.

Their telepathic brilliance symbolises what the club have been about for years, but Sir Alex Ferguson has not been afforded two players together, in their prime, firing on all cylinders, for some time.

United have also won every match in which they have started with Rooney and Van Persie. While they are both injury-free, the five-match winning streak is set to continue. The Black Cats manager, Martin O’Neill, was quick to dish out praise following the 3-1 defeat.

“Robin van Persie was a great purchase,” he said. “It means Manchester United are capable of scoring goals because Wayne Rooney is a top quality player as well. 

“Whilst their main players stay fit Manchester United are capable of winning the league.”

Read Goal.com’s report by Jack Gaughan

Routine win for United as Vidic returns

Events elsewhere this weekend bring into sharp focus the more important things in life. A game of football, and the various spats between groups of fans or players, seems of little importance given this wider context. Manchester United and Sunderland lined up at Old Trafford with all 22 players wearing black armbands in recognition of the dreadful tragedy in America.

Over the years, Sunderland have been extremely obliging opponents to United. They were kind enough to let Eric Cantona score one of his cockiest goals against them and have conceded a hatful to the Mancunians on a few occasions. The phrase ‘routine United victory’ was perhaps invented for afternoons such as these. It seems such a shame. Sunderland are a great football club, a one-team town with a proud history and solid supporters. Why they don’t punch higher up the table seems strange to me. One day they will get their alchemy right. Not today apparently. 

Wayne Rooney started, despite his reported illness and began by playing some terrific quarterback-type passes around. He seems to relish picking ambitious passes from deep and appears very happy playing alongside Robin van Persie. Their understanding can’t be disputed with a truckload of goals in games when they have started together. 

United opted for an old-fashioned 4-4-2 line-up, perhaps in recognition that Martin O’Neill is also a student of the old school. Nemanja Vidic, the beast, was back on the bench and it was nice to see United weren’t rushing him into the side like they tried to at the start of the season. He had to settle for intimidating the Sunderland players at kick-off from the sidelines. It actually seemed to work.

Read ESPNFC’s blog by Mark Payne

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