guarantee top spot in the league for Christmas Day thanks to goals from Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney - before Fraizer Campbell secured some consolation for the Black Cats with a scrappy riposte on 72 minutes.
Did you know? In Barclays Premier League history, United’s top scorer against Sunderland is that little known, deadly finisher called ‘Own Goal’, with five strikes. Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are tied for second with four apiece.
Opposition boss: Martin O’Neill spent the majority of his playing career at Nottingham Forest working under the iconic Brian Clough, whose influence is clear to see in the Northern Irishman’s managerial career. Amusingly, when appointed Sunderland boss in 2011, the 61-year-old recalled his late mentor’s infamous sense of humour, saying: “I never once phoned him for advice because I know he would have said... You got yourself into this mess; now get yourself out of it.” And with his side currently facing the threat of relegation, O’Neill knows exactly what he has to do.
Star man: John O’Shea is not accustomed to fighting the drop having enjoyed a trophy-laden 12-season stay at Old Trafford, but insists the mentality needed is similar to chasing the title at the other end of the table. “It’s not something I’m used to,” he recently explained. “It’s a new experience for me. But in its own way, I don’t think it is any different from when you’re chasing for a title - it’s all about the importance of winning pressure games.”
Sub-plots: As mentioned, the Stadium of Light was the setting for one of United’s biggest disappointments in recent history and memories are understandably raw. Supporters won’t have forgotten the celebrations of