English Premiership

United sink Sunderland

2012-12-15 19:27
Wayne Rooney (AP Photo)

Manchester - Robin van Persie, Tom Cleverley and Wayne Rooney all scored as Manchester United beat Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday to re-assert their six-point lead in the Premier League.

The home team coasted into a two-goal advantage with less than 20 minutes gone thanks to goals from van Persie and Cleverley.

Rooney made it three just before the hour to bring up nine goals in four Premier League matches from his partnership with van Persie, as the hosts re-established their six-point cushion over Manchester City.

United were also boosted by the return of captain Nemanja Vidic as a substitute after three months out with a knee injury.

But Fraizer Campbell's late header meant they have still only kept four clean sheets in their 25 matches this season.

United manager Alex Ferguson had been keen to play down any talk of revenge against Sunderland, whose supporters had celebrated United losing the league on goal difference on the final day of last season.

But United were clearly in the mood to get the job done quickly and with just over a minute gone, visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had to be sharp to cut out a Phil Jones cross after Antonio Valencia's clever pass.

Michael Carrick then opened up the Sunderland defence, only for Ashley Young's drive to be deflected over.

Young also had another strike pushed over the bar by Mignolet from the Wayne Rooney corner that followed.

An even better chance fell for Patrice Evra when Steven Fletcher headed Rooney's corner to the edge of the area and the French defender stuck his shot just over the bar.

But United finally moved into a deserved lead after just 15 minutes.

Young stayed on his feet despite a heavy challenge from Carlos Cuellar in the area and then chipped over a cross that was only half cleared by John O'Shea, and van Persie produced an instinctive finish.

The Dutchman almost instantly doubled the lead but saw his header from a Jones cross turned around the post by Mignolet.

Just three minutes after moving ahead, United took the chance for a second.

Cleverley picked up the ball wide on the left and swapped passes with Carrick before guiding a neat shot around Mignolet.

Rooney then wasted two great opportunities for a third, heading wide from just a couple of yards at the near post and then failing to hit the target from a similar distance from van Persie's flick.

Sunderland managed to get forward themselves when James McClean latched on to a Rio Ferdinand error but the Republic of Ireland winger's drive from a narrow angle was easily blocked by David de Gea.

Paul Scholes replaced Carrick at the break, and Rooney should have ended all doubt just a couple of minutes into the second period.

The England striker was picked out by Valencia at the near post but could only turn his effort onto the bar before Young produced a disappointing follow-up.

De Gea made an impressive double save by repelling Craig Gardner's shot and then denying Sessegnon from the rebound.

Van Persie was wasteful after being put clean through on goal by Young but United moved three goals ahead before the hour.

Young fed van Persie and the Dutchman eased between Cuellar and Titus Bramble before crossing to the far post, where Rooney touched in ahead of Black Cats midfielder Joe Colback.

Despite the long-awaited return of Vidic, United allowed their former player Campbell the space to head in at the far post from a Stephane Sessegnon cross to give Martin O'Neill's men a 72nd-minute consolation.

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