free-kick, then volleying over the bar after a sumptuous one-two with the superb Carrick.
Sunderland were fortunate that their tame first half showing had only been punished by a one-goal deficit, and Martin O’Neill’s players emerged for the second period clearly intent on committing to the cause; pushing greater numbers forward and charging into challenges.
Former Red John O’Shea was cautioned for a foul on van Persie, whose subsequent free-kick was deflected clear from a promising position, before the Dutchman also picked up a caution for a perceived high challenge on Craig Gardner.
The home support cranked up their own contribution in keeping with events on the pitch, and it took a superb diving clearance from Evans to stop Stephane Sessegnon from giving the hosts even more to shout about. From the subsequent corner, play was halted after an accidental clash of faces between De Gea and Vidic, but the Reds were undoubtedly rattled by the hosts’ improvement.
Smalling, who had switched to right-back after the introduction of Evans, made a superb headed clearance as Graham steamed onto Adam Johnson’s cross, before the ex-Manchester City winger drilled a long-range effort wide of De Gea’s goal. For United, a rare forward raid culminated in Büttner’s cross being cleared by Bramble before Kagawa could apply a finish.
Bardsley volleyed off-target shortly after escaping with a booking for planting his studs on Büttner’s shin, before the Dutchman almost exacted revenge with a stinging right-footed effort which Mignolet tipped wide. Vidic planted a header wide from the ensuing corner as United increasingly pushed for a killer second goal.
Danny Welbeck was introduced in place of Kagawa and Anderson made way for Tom Cleverley, but