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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
15 December 2012
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: C. Foy
• Attendance: 75582
R. van Persie 16'
T. Cleverley 19'
W. Rooney 59'
F. Campbell 72'
Thanks for joining us for the LIVE commentary of Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland. Stay with Goal.com for the match report, player ratings, and more reaction from this game and all the others around the Premier League today. I've been Tom J Doyle - enjoy the rest of your weekend.
It's all over, and United take the three points today. Sir Alex Ferguson's side raced into an early 2-0 lead through fine strikes from Van Persie and Cleverley, and Rooney's second-half strike threatened to open the floodgates for the hosts. However, the Black Cats battled back well, and while Campbell's header was a mere consolation, O'Neill can take heart from the spirited end - particularly the performance of Wickham.
FULL-TIME: Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland
90' + 1'
Only a fine clearance denies Van Persie from adding a fourth to United's total here. O'Neil will be annoyed at the manner of the goals his side conceded, but the final 25 minutes have surely been a good watch for Sunderland fans.
We'll have three minutes of injury time, and the home side will once again be going six points clear of Manchester City. Ferguson won't be happy with how they've finished the game, but it's still a solid three points after a bright start.
A minute of normal time left and United have a corner - will they go for a fourth?
Larsson delivers a fine free kick from the right, and finds Bramble in the area - but the big defender can only head up and over the bar from a promising position.
Almost a disaster for United as Sunderland look to work a chance from the left, and the ball trickles through a body of players on the six-yard box without being finished. The visitors have finished the game really strongly, but it's just too little, too late.
Jones clips a lovely ball over the top of the defence from the right side of the penalty area, but Van Persie can only head wide on the stretch. Good chance.
Colback goes off with an injury and James McFadden is on - he's on a short-term loan until January, but a goal or two here would surely give O'Neill something to think about beyond that period.
De Gea denies Wickham! The visitors are really pressing now, and the impressive substitute strikes low and hard through bodies, but the United keeper is down to save with his feet. Decent hit and a decent stop, but United's fans are getting restless.
Sunderland have 10 minutes to find two goals - they look more promising from set pieces now as John O'Shea wins yet another flick-on, but again there's nobody on hand to head in around the six-yard box as De Gea eventually collects the bouncing ball.
So nearly a beautiful goal for Scholes as Rooney, Van Persie and Scholes all combine delightfully with one-touch passing to set up the midfielder, but Jack Colback senses the danger and denies the Ginger Prince a finish.
Bramble again does well to deny Rooney as the England forward looked to nutmeg the defender on the right of the box - perhaps he should've shifted the ball to Van Persie in the centre instead.
Well, so much for Vidic adding some solidity to the Manchester United back line, as they concede within four minutes of his return. To be fair though, Smalling looked like the guilty party there, as he simply wasn't picking up his man.
Great chance for Campbell to find a fellow forward as he is through on the right, but he waits too long and can only find Smalling in the middle. There's some aggression back in Sunderland's play now, and O'Neill is waving his players on to get forward from the touchline.
Assist Stéphane Sessegnon
Goal Fraizer Campbell
CAMPBELL PULLS ONE BACK!!! Just as I say it's game over, Sunderland pull a goal back. Moments after being denied by De Gea from range, Sessegnon struck a fine cross to the back post which Campbell rose to head in from a yard out. Is it game on? Maybe another would tempt me to type that...
20 minutes to go here - will Sunderland mount the most unlikely of comebacks. No. Just no. But they'll want to keep working to retain some pride.
It's Rio Ferdinand who makes way for Nemanja Vidic, and the roar is almost as loud as when United actually scored their goals. This could be an important moment in the Red Devils' season.
Gardner steps up from 25 yards as the ball is pulled back...and blasts the ball over the bar. Even more good news for United fans is that Vidic is stripped off on the touchline and will be making his comeback - it's the perfect time for it really, as Sunderland have all but given up the ghost.
Is there more misery to come for Sunderland today? United look dangerous every time they go forward, with Young and Valencia in great form on the wings. Ferguson will want his side to hit a few more and avoid the pain of potentially losing the title on goal difference like last season.
O'Shea gets a good flick on the ball from a corner here, but there are no team mates on hand to head the chance home. Unfortunate for the visitors, but it's just not being their day.
Assist Robin van Persie
Goal Wayne Rooney
ROONEY MAKES IT THREE!!! Young and Van Persie combined well on the left, and the striker superbly jinked work past Bramble before feeding the England striker for a simple tap-in from six yards. Simple yet again, but Van Persie showed real class on the ball to create the opportunity.
Wickham takes the ball 30 yards from goal and dribbles around looking for an opening, and as no defender gets out to him he hits an effort just over from 25 yards. Ferdinand's not happy with Smalling...
McClean whips in a cross that takes a big deflection off of Paul Scholes, and De Gea scrambled across to his right-hand post to kick the ball out for a corner. The Spaniard blows his cheeks out and has a little laugh, but his manager wouldn't have been laughing had that found the net.
After that frenetic start, the play has balanced out a little - but here's Cuellar bursting forward into the United area. He's got options to his left, but dallies and simply passes it to Smalling before fouling him. What a waste.
Now Van Persie is through on goal - the ball is bouncing, Mignolet is rushing out, you know what's coming - but he side-foots the volley wide of the goal. Good work from the keeper, but the Dutchman will be disappointed with that finish.
Good save by De Gea! Gardner is all alone on the edge of the area and blasts the ball low at goal, and the Spaniard is down smartly to tip the ball away before saving the follow-up. The midfielder really should have found a corner with that free strike, but what a start to the second half.
So nearly three for United! Valencia again does well down the right and finds Rooney six yards out, but Bramble does enough to deflect the ball onto the bar. The rebound falls to Young, who can only toe-poke it over from eight yards.
We're underway again and Paul Scholes has replaced Carrick in the centre for the hosts. Worse news for Sunderland is that Fletcher has had to be replaced by Connor Wickham, so the search for goals in these second 45 minutes will be even more difficult for the Black Cats.
HALF-TIME: Manchester United 2-0 Sunderland - Sir Alex Ferguson's side were quick out of the traps as Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley put the home side in full advantage. In truth it could be 4 or 5-0, but Martin O'Neill will also regret James McClean's decision to shoot instead of feeding Steven Fletcher for a simple tap-in.
McClean fiercely strikes the ball from 30 yards, but it's straight at De Gea who holds the ball well - we'll have one minute of injury time.
Steven Fletcher is down injured here and that will be a big loss for Sunderland if he can't continue - although to be honest, they haven't really utilised him well today.
Have Sunderland got what it takes to get back into this game? Not really, by the looks of it so far. O'Neill will probably just be hoping his side can get in to half-time at 2-0 down.
Evra really wants another goal today, and heads wide from a corner - it's somewhat odds he's finding himself in so many goalscoring positions of late, but Sir Alex Ferguson won't be complaining.
Cleverley is trying to relive that wonderful second goal, but curls it horribly over from a fair old distance. There are high hopes for him at Old Trafford, and more goals like that will do him no harm whatsoever.
Evra blocks Sessegnon's effort! The midfielder shaped to shoot at the back post on the volley, but the France international got his head to the ball ahead of De Gea's dive. Strong defending there.
Sunderland win a corner courtesy of James McClean's work on the left - they will need to threaten at set pieces to have a chance today...
Carrick shapes up to shoot in the box, but Bramble does well to get something on the ball and block it out for a corner, which comes to nothing. The pace has slowed a little with 10 minutes of the half remaining, but make no mistake - United want more goals.
Steven Fletcher is really isolated up front on his own for the visitors, and is being reduced to trying to chase down hopeful long balls - it's a real waste of his talent on the ball.
Carrick picks the ball up in the centre after a poor pass from Bramble, but Van Persie can't quite find Rooney in the centre. Sunderland can't afford to be that sloppy in possession today.
It's a little unfair to compare Evra's and Van Persie's finishing ability, but if you want to learn how to finish, watch a replay of both of their efforts. The defender was all fury and no finesse, while the striker simply helped the ball on its way into the top corner of the net. It looked so simple, but the composure was the difficult bit there.
Van Persie makes a great challenge in the middle of the pitch and gets a good round of applause. United paid a lot of money for the striker, but he looks well worth it now - even at 29 years of age.
A little more pressure from Sunderland here and De Gea has to come and punch a corner after Craig Gardner had a shot deflected out, but United almost hit the visitors on the counter. This will suit the hosts now as Martin O'Neill will surely have to risk pushing players forward to chase the game.
How have Sunderland not scored here? James McClean steals the ball off of Rio Ferdinand and is in on the left. He should cut the ball back for Steven Fletcher to finish, but elects to try and beat the onrushing David de Gea, who makes a good stop. Baffling decision from the winger, and that could well be the Black Cats' best chance of getting back into the game gone.
It's all United now. Rooney toe-pokes another effort wide of Mignolet's right-hand post - how busy will the Sunderland keeper have to be today?
It should be 3-0 to United. The ball comes in from the left and Van Persie unselfishly cushions it into the path of Rooney, who somehow volleyed wide from 10 yards. The ball was relatively high up his body, but he should have scored, and instead hooked wide of Mignolet's right-hand post.
Assist Michael Carrick
Goal Tom Cleverley
CLEVERLEY MAKES IT 2-0!!! What a goal that is from United. Michael Carrick and Cleverley combine beautifully to give United a great advantage. The youngster had the ball on the left wing and played a one-two with his midfield partner before curling a delightful first-time effort into Mignolet's far left corner. The hosts are on fire.
Great save from Mignolet to deny Van Persie! Jones puts in a great ball from the right which Van Persie rises to meet in the middle, and the keeper tips his bouncing header wide at full stretch...
Goal Robin van Persie
VAN PERSIE SCORES!!! Young showed great persistence on the left to battle with Carlos Cuellar and retrieve the ball before crossing the ball in to the front post. Former United man John O'Shea could only clear as far as the Holland striker, who controlled and passed the ball into the top right-hand corner of Mignolet's net. So, so simple, and United lead.
Rooney tries to find Valencia with a reverse ball in behind the Sunderland defence, but it's far too hard and the winger never stood a chance of catching that. They've had all of the ball, but the hosts have been a little careless with it so far.
United are camped in the final third here, and seem intent on getting goals early on rather than leaving it late as they have so often done this season. They'll be at least three points ahead by the close of play, but a six-point lead is much more appealing.
United are searching around for an opener here, and have another corner...and Patrice Evra blasts over from 12 yards out! He was unmarked on the penalty spot, and smashed it over the bar as Sunderland players closed him down. The France defender will be annoyed as he has two goals already this season - a big let-off for the visitors there.
The ball is partially cleared and falls to Young on the edge of the box, and his 18-yard strike is tipped over by Mignolet. The keeper collects the resulting corner. Good early pressure from the hosts here.
Sunderland are pressing United very high up the pitch here, but they'll have to make sure they're not caught too high up the pitch. Ashley Young wins a corner after shooting against John O'Shea - can they take an early lead?
The crowd are bellowing out a tribute to Nemanja Vidic which I can't really repeat on here - let's just say that they're showing their full appreciation for their returning captain.
Early action as Phil Jones gets forward well on the right to whip in a cross from the right, but Mignolet is down well to cling on to the ball. Up the other end, Sessegnon looks to fashion a chance on the edge of the box but can't quite find the space - United will have to watch him closely.
We're underway at Old Trafford. United can't stop scoring, but can't keep the ball out of their own net, so this match should be exciting regardless. Sunderland, on the other hand, aren't doing much of either, so may look to stifle the hosts.
The teams are on their way out at Old Trafford, and the crowd are in fine voice - that 3-2 win over rivals City last weekend will have put some fire in the home fans' bellies ahead of a clogged festive fixture programme. But can O'Neill's men throw a spanner in the works? Action up soon...
Goal.com reported earlier that Patrice Evra sees Robin van Persie in a similar mould to that of United's other great Dutch striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy. He's still a fair way off of Ruud's 150 strikes for the club, but with goals such as last weekend's winner in the derby, Van Persie could be just as important.
Danny Rose misses out for Sunderland, while Titus Bramble returns to the centre of defence - how busy will he be today against Van Persie? We're less than 20 minutes away from finding out...
So, the main news for United is that club captain Nemanja Vidic is fit enough to take a place on the subs' bench, while Wayne Rooney has overcome illness to lead the line alongside Robin van Persie. Youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling take up defensive roles for the Red Devils today.
Sunderland starting XI: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, Cuellar, O’Shea; Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Saha.
The team news is in...Manchester United starting XI: De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young; Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Lindegaard, Vidic, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Hernandez, Welbeck.
Good afternoon and welcome to the LIVE commentary of Manchester United - Sunderland at Old Trafford. I'm Tom J Doyle, and as I type Manchester City are minutes away from sealing a 3-1 victory at Newcastle United, so Sir Alex Ferguson's men will need a win today to keep their six-point lead at the top of the table. Martin O'Neill's men meanwhile could leapfrog their north-east rivals with a point here today.
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