United’s hectic festive schedule began with a comfortable victory over Sunderland, as Dimitar Berbatov struck a goal in either half at Old Trafford to keep the Premier League leaders motoring along.
Restricted to only two matches in December prior to the Black Cats’ visit, United’s appetite for action was quickly apparent. Berbatov headed home the opener inside five minutes, then he and Anderson both struck the woodwork and several other chances were spurned inside the opening 20 minutes, and it took a deflected strike early in the second half to make the game safe for the Reds.
Injury-hit Sunderland scarcely threatened throughout the afternoon, and Sir Alex Ferguson was able to replace the effective Ryan Giggs and Anderson midway through the second period as he looked ahead to Tuesday’s trip to Birmingham.
Deprived of Nani and Darren Fletcher through injury and illness, Sir Alex made two enforced changes to the side which overcame Arsenal earlier this month. Ryan Giggs replaced the Portuguese winger on the left flank, while the inclusion of Berbatov prompted a reprisal of his strike partnership with Wayne Rooney.
Within five minutes the duo had combined to devastating effect. Exploiting poor positioning from the visitors, Giggs latched onto Anderson’s pass, meandered towards goal and fed Rooney, whose measured chip was emphatically nodded home at the back post by Berbatov.
Buoyed by such an early advantage, United’s early play continued with vim and vigour. Giggs in particular looked eager to make his mark on the game. The veteran winger capped one beautiful winding run with a neat pass to Rooney, whose impish chip drifted fractionally past Gordon’s far post.