Premier League: Manchester United 2-0 Sunderland
ManUtd: Wayne Rooney (66, 84)
Wayne Rooney’s second-half double was enough to give Manchester United victory over a stubborn Sunderland side, who had ex-Red Wes Brown sent off in a case of mistaken identity.
The Reds captain fired home a penalty in the 66th minute at Old Trafford after Radamel Falcao had been brought down in the box by John O’Shea when poised to pull the trigger. Referee Roger East showed a red card to Brown, despite the protests of his fellow former Reds stalwart O’Shea.
United, playing in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, saw out the game comfortably from there, having been frustrated by Gus Poyet’s well-organised side up that point, and Rooney headed a second from close range with six minutes to go.
Louis van Gaal made five changes to the side that lost at Swansea City last weekend. Falcao partnered Rooney up front, with Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling at the heart of the defence. Robin van Persie, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw were all ruled out. And it was captain Rooney who had the first chance of the game in the fourth minute, directing his header wide from a corner when well placed inside the box.
Sunderland quickly demonstrated they would not be content to sit back all afternoon. Connor Wickham was allowed to carry the ball to the edge of United’s box and get away a low shot, which David De Gea palmed round his post, and Jermain Defoe curled just over from 20 yards soon after.
But the home side gradually established control of the first half and Marcos Rojo almost got on the end of a devilish cross by Angel Di Maria on the right wing. The ball was cleared as far as Ashley Young, whose wicked shot grazed the roof of Costel Pantilimon’s net.
Urged on by cries of ‘Attack! Attack! Attack!’, Di Maria fed Antonio Valencia down the right and the full-back’s cross found Young, who controlled with his chest and fired a shot that looked destined for the corner of the net, only for O’Shea to stick out a boot and deflect the ball onto the crossbar and away.
United continued to press, with left-winger Young particularly lively on his first start since New Year’s Day, and Sebastian Larsson, whose goal gave the Black Cats a shock 1-0 win on their last visit to Old Trafford in May, was called upon to clear Rojo’s poked effort off the line as the first half ended goalless.
Adnan Januzaj replaced Di Maria at the start of a second half that was a cagier affair than the first until it exploded into life on the hour mark. Herrera’s cross from the right was superbly controlled by Falcao, who turned O’Shea and was about to shoot when he was grappled to the ground, with Brown in close attendance.
Referee East pointed to the spot, dismissed Brown and, after a lengthy delay for O’Shea’s protests, Rooney placed his penalty low into the right-hand corner. There was a palpable sense of relief around Old Trafford and it seemed the Black Cats’ resistance was broken. Substitute Marouane Fellaini, on for Falcao, then Januzaj and Rojo all went close before Rooney grabbed his second, heading home after Pantilimon had parried Januzaj’s shot.
Herrera thought he’d tapped home a third in stoppage time but it was ruled out for offside. No matter: this was the Reds’ ninth win in the last 10 home games and, with Arsenal not in action until Sunday, it lifted van Gaal’s men back into third in the Barclays Premier League table.
United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Evans, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Young, Di Maria (Januzaj 46), Rooney (Mata 86), Falcao (Fellaini 68).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, McNair, Carrick, Wilson.
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Reveillere, van Aanholt, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Larsson, Gomez, Johnson (Fletcher 81), Wickham (Vergini 67), Defoe (Graham 67).
Subs not used: Mannone, Bridcutt, Coates, Watmore.
Booked: van Aanholt
Sent off: Brown