05/12/2008 16:57, Report by Nick Coppack
United 1 Sunderland 0
The most unlikely of heroes rescued United from an embarrassing 0-0 draw against 18th-placed Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. Nemanja Vidic scored his eighth United goal, and surely his most important, in the 91st minute to keep United in touch at the top of the table.
The Serbian was first to react after Michael Carrick’s deflected shot hit a post and bounced back across goal, with Black Cats stopper Marton Fulop stranded. Fulop had frustrated the Reds time and again, albeit aided by a Sunderland side so lacking in attacking ambition that their fans cheered a second-half throw-in near United’s corner flag as if their side had gone in front.
The visitors, undeterred by Roy Keane’s exit 48 hours earlier, showed no signs of crumbling. They defended doggedly and would have been delighted to take a point off the English and European champions.
The Reds enjoyed all the early possession, carving out the first opening in the 12th minute, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s clever flick found Berbatov on the edge of the box. He turned and fired goalwards, only to see Fulop save with his feet. Berbatov started alongside Wayne Rooney, despite Carlos Tevez’s four-goal haul in midweek. Sir Alex stuck with the same side that beat Manchester City at Eastlands last Sunday, and the familiarity appeared to breed confidence.
Ronaldo earned a free kick on 14 minutes after a mazy run was halted illegally on the edge of the Sunderland area. Rather than blast the set-piece goalwards, however, the Ballon d’Or winner teed up Rooney. Wayne’s shot, more placement than power, was helped on its way by Berbatov, who again saw Fulop save well.
Ten minutes later, Rooney opted only for power when he volleyed spectacularly from 20 yards out. At first it looked as if the ball might arrow into the top corner, but in the end it sailed harmlessly wide for a goal kick.