Sir Alex Ferguson's side were denied victory in their chase for the title by the climactic events that unfolded at the Etihad stadium, despite doing just enough to beat the Mackems
Manchester United began the day knowing that even victory would not guarantee them an historic and dramatic title triumph, but they had to secure a win to even stand a chance and Wayne Rooney duly delivered by nodding home a Phil Jones centre in the 20th minute.
With chances at a premium, though, United comfortably closed the game out in the second half, with Sunderland rarely ever looking like scoring. As the final whistle was went, the events at the Etihad Stadium began to come to light with the astonishing news that Sergio Aguero had struck a sensational last-minute winner to snatch the title right out of United's grasp in the final minute of the season.
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill made three changes to the side that were beaten 2-1 by Fulham at Craven Cottage, with Fraizer Campbell, Titus Bramble and David Vaughan all restored to the starting eleven in place of Ji Dong-Won, Matthew Kilgallon and Lee Cattermole.
Manchester United made two changes themselves to the starting line-up from the side that ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at home against Swansea last weekend. Chris Smalling was ruled out altogether with a hamstring injury, while Javier Hernandez was the front man sacrificed as Sir Alex Ferguson switched to a five-man midfield. Ryan Giggs and Jonny Evans were the players to be drafted into the team in their place.
With a raucous atmosphere at the Stadium of Light, slowly but surely, Manchester United began to establish their supremacy by dominating possession in midfield and they took the lead in the 20th minute to keep their slim title hopes alive, after Rooney nodded in unmarked at the back post from a Jones cross to hand his side the lead.
With the game becoming increasingly open, Giggs forced Simon Mignolet into a smart stop in the 27th minute before Rooney went fractionally wide with a free-kick from the edge of the box. Moments later, Fraizer Campbell went close after volleying over inside the box on the stretch after latching onto a lofted through ball from Stephane Sessegnon.
The issue of United's profligacy in front of goal reared its ugly head again in the 37th minute when Rooney somehow failed to make contact on a scuffed Ashley Young shot at the far post, from just five yards out and with an open goal gaping and Ferguson's side had to settle with just a one-goal lead at the break.
United raced out of the traps in the second half, with Mignolet saving brilliantly at point-blank range from Rooney after being put through by Young before Jones nodded narrowly wide from a Young free-kick from deep on the left.
The home side responded in kind, though, and went close through both Sessegnon and Phil Bardsley with shots from outside the area as they rallied after surviving United's decent spell going forward at the beginning of the half.
With news of QPR having taken the lead filtering around the ground, United went close to doubling their lead in the 76th minute when Scholes struck the post from outside the box before Mignolet acrobatically tipped Giggs follow-up effort over the bar.
With the clock ticking down and nerves jangling in the stands and out on the pitch, Rooney clipped the post with a free-kick from outside the box in the 89th minute.
As referee Howard Webb brought an end to proceedings, though, and the United players began to applaud the away support believing they had secured the title, a quite simply unbelievable turn of events at City meant that Ferguson's charges had come up frustratingly short in their bid for the title, losing out to their noisy neighbours.