05/12/2008 16:57, Report by Nick Coppack
United 1 Sunderland 0
Sunderland, meanwhile, lacked firepower. Dwight Yorke, returning to the club where he scored 66 goals, was less goal threat and more goal tender, patrolling the area in front of the visitors’ back four. The only Sunderland man consistently playing as a forward was former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse.
Ji-sung Park, who’d been lively early on, forced another save from Fulop on 28 minutes after linking well with Rooney. Park stretched to reach Rooney’s return ball but couldn’t muster enough power to beat the keeper. Park went close again shortly after, while Fletcher also fired over the bar after Michael Carrick’s miscued volley.
Sunderland's were reduced to half chances. On 40 minutes, Rio Ferdinand fouled Cisse 25 yards from goal, and the Frenchman's free-kick only succeeded in firing it into the Reds’ wall.
The score may have been 0-0 at the break, but Sir Alex isn’t one to panic and stood by the 11 on the pitch. He did, however, deem it necessary to throw on Carlos Tevez on 58 minutes after Rooney, Carrick and Fletcher had all failed to send United into the lead. Fletcher’s was perhaps the best chance, the Scot swivelling to hit a left-footed shot just past the post after good work from Rafael down the right.
The next shot at goal, fashioned for Ronaldo when Berbatov picked the no.7 out with a clever cut-back, also missed its target. Ronny, under intense pressure as he shot, blazed over from 12 yards. It was his last meaningful involvement in the game, the challenge leaving the winger with a hip injury that forced him from the field shortly afterwards.
It prompted a double change – Giggs for Ronaldo, Anderson for Fletcher – and United’s record appearance-maker was next to miss the target, volleying wide from a tight angle. To be fair, it was a difficult chance… which is more than can be said for the opportunity