The Warrington-born forward struck the only goal during a match of few chances, helping Warren Joyce's side record a third consecutive victory in the Barclays Premier League against a Black Cats team that would have gone top with three points. United's triumph was also noteworthy because of an illness that had spread through the camp in the week, forcing several players to miss training ahead ahead of kick-off.
Though the first half was lacking quality in front of goal, the Reds were well on top and probably should have taken the lead when the impressive Saidy Janko worked the ball out wide to Andreas Pereira, whose cross was shot away from goal by Davide Petrucci.
Moments later, Jesse Lingard was similarly wasteful as he latched onto Janko’s neat inside pass to blast high and wide. The Warrington-born forward made amends by intercepting a wayward pass, driving past a Black Cats defender and firing home from 20 yards in the 40th minute.
After the half-time break, United restarted brightly and went close to doubling the lead following some excellent work from Joe Rothwell, who got to the by-line to feed Petrucci. Unfortunately, the Italian could only hit the post from six yards before his follow-up effort was saved by the goalkeeper.
The game descended into chaos in the 65th minute when Ross Holland made an overly raucous challenge on Guillermo Varela before appearing to strike the protesting Rothwell, an incident that caused a considerable melee and resulted in the Sunderland man receiving a yellow card from the lenient referee.
That stoppage disrupted the flow