Sunderland have not won at Old Trafford since the final day of the 1967/68 season and, despite creating chances in the second half, they never truly looked like ending that run as United’s first-half purpose and swagger – albeit lacking a ruthlessness in front of goal – ensured all three points for the Reds.
Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney got United’s goals to maintain a six-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League, but the Reds will feel that more should have been made of some excellent goalscoring opportunities, while in the second half David De Gea was the busier of the two goalkeepers. Nevertheless, this remains a positive follow-up to last weekend’s win at Manchester City.
United’s control and attacking intent in the first half was impressive to watch. Michael Carrick was supreme in a first 45 minutes in which he dictated the game’s tempo and orchestrated attacks as team-mates buzzed around in front of him. After he was forced off at half-time, United’s drive noticeably waned.
There were two changes to the team that won at City. Chris Smalling stepped in to partner Rio Ferdinand at centre-back in place of the injured Jonny Evans and ahead of Nemanja Vidic, who took up a place on the bench, while Rafael was given only his second league match off this season. Phil Jones took his spot at right-back.
There’s nothing like a win over your title rivals to inspire confidence in your play and as early as the second minute United were on the front foot. Jones raced onto Antonio Valencia’s pass – a nutmeg through the legs of Jack Colback – but Simon Mignolet was quick off his line to cut out Jones’ sliding cross. Ashley Young then had a shot deflected wide for a corner on six minutes and, after the resulting corner, forced a fingertip save from Mignolet.