Though Sunderland looked menacing on the break, United’s pressure gradually began to tell. Antonio Valencia worked his way past former Reds defender John O’Shea and squared for Rooney, whose shot was blocked by Michael Turner.
Giggs’ floated corner was reached by Phil Jones ahead of Mignolet, but the England defender’s header agonisingly cleared the crossbar and dropped onto the roof of the net. Jones atoned within two minutes, however, as he teed up the game’s opening goal.
The ball was worked wide to the Reds’ right-back and, as Sunderland sat deep, he curled in a magnificent deep ball which Rooney stooped to nod inside Mignolet’s post, sending the small but strident band of travelling supporters wild – especially with the scoreline still blank at the Etihad Stadium.
Just before the half-hour, United twice came close to doubling their lead. First, Mignolet showed sharp reflexes to beat away Giggs’ prodded effort, before Rooney floated a beautiful free-kick onto the top of the crossbar from just outside the area.
Having equalled his personal best season tally of 34 goals with the opener, Rooney was in the mood to embellish his haul – and he really should have done in the 34th minute. Impressive approach play from Valencia teed up Young, and the winger’s shot should have been swept in by Rooney, who somehow scuffed his effort off-target.
Sunderland quickly rallied, buoyed on by an increasingly tetchy home support, and might have drawn level when Fraizer Campbell stretched to volley goalwards. He could only skew his effort comfortably wide. The Stadium of Light was engulfed by cheers, however, when news filtered through that Pablo