after stretching to parry the initial shot.
United took far longer to settle and were too often wasteful with possession in the final third. In fact, it took until the 31st minute to muster a shot on goal, Wayne Rooney blasting straight at Keiren Westwood in the Sunderland goal.
Little improved soon after, although the Reds did have a half-hearted shout for a penalty (correctly) turned down when Sebastian Larsson bundled Chicharito to the ground after Darren Fletcher's neat pass had sent the Mexican through on goal.
Summer signing Phil Jones almost opened his United account in spectacular fashion when he volleyed a bouncing ball just over the bar from 18 yards. He then combined well with Nani down the right in a move that ended with Westwood making a sharp save down to his right to deny the Portuguese.
From the resulting corner, the Reds took the lead in first-half injury time, although there was plenty of doubt over who should be credited with the goal. Danny Welbeck wheeled away in celebration, while Wes Brown stood disconsolate on the edge of the six-yard box. What was clear was that Nani's set-piece had ended up in the net after Welbeck and Sunderland's central defensive pairing had challenged for the aerial ball.
The goal may have sent United into the break 1-0 up and spared Sir Alex's men the full force of a famous “hairdryer” team-talk, but the boss will no doubt still have issued a few stern words. After all, his side had been off the pace for long periods in the first half.
Happily, the Reds did look brighter after the interval. Nani blasted a 30-yard free-kick just wide of the post and Ji-sung Park posed