|1||Van der Sar|
The Reds were given two sobering scares, as both Steven Fletcher and David Nugent passed up glaring opportunities with the scoresheet blank, before a quickfire double from the front two and an injury-time third from home debutant Diouf sealed a first victory of 2010 for the Reds.
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar also made a welcome return to action after 12 games out, and made several key saves as the United backline registered a much-needed clean sheet.
That shutout could have evaporated after just seven minutes when Chris Eagles’ neat pass released Nugent to centre for Fletcher. However, as he bore down on goal, with only Michael Carrick in his proximity, the striker fired wastefully past the far post.
Another clipped ball from Eagles was inches away from finding Nugent for a certain opener, but United pieced together a sustained spell of pressure on the 20-minute mark and dominated proceedings for the remainder of the half, without ever finding a route through the visitors’ massed ranks.
The Reds time and again found space down the flanks, with Antonio Valencia giving Stephen Jordan a particularly torrid time, but the final ball was invariably intercepted or sent narrowly off target as the hosts packed nine outfield players into defensive positions. When visiting goalkeeper Brian Jensen was tested, he was comfortably able to field Nani’s low shot and a Rooney header.