Barclays Premier League
Stadium of Light
Wednesday 26 December 2007
(Saha 2, Ronaldo, Rooney)
Sunderland: Gordon; Whitehead, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins; Chopra (O'Donovan 87), Yorke (Richardson 61), Etuhu, Wallace (Leadbitter 46); Jones, Waghorn. Subs not used: Ward, Cole.
United: Kuszczak; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic (Pique 74), O'Shea; Ronaldo (Park 57), Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Rooney, Saha. Subs not used: Heaton, Evra, Tevez.
After a frustratingly scrappy opening period, the Reds took the lead on 20 minutes when Rooney exploited some lax Sunderland defending to beat the offside trap and roll the ball past Gordon. Rooney turned provider for United's second goal, picking out Louis Saha in the middle with a curling cross.
There was still time before the break for United's third, this time from the boot of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star had already tested Gordon with two long-range free kicks but in injury time at the end of the first half a third free-kick – this one slightly to the left of centre and 25 yards from goal – sailed over the wall and into the top corner.
With the game won, the Reds took their foot off the pedal until Nani was tugged back inside the area by Danny Collins and Saha coolly converted from the spot.