Red Devils remain on top of the Premier League.Manchester United largely dominated Sunderland at Old Trafford and took three points to remain at the top of the Premier League.
Dimitar Berbatov's header early on caused the hosts to open the scoring, and the Bulgarian added a second close to the hour mark to cap an impressive display for the Red Devils.
The home side's boss Sir Alex Ferguson had Anderson and Nemanja Vidic available after the duo recovered from a bout of flu, but Nani was not so lucky as he was left out of this encounter. Darren Fletcher also missed out on this one, while Michael Owen - who had recently declared himself fit - was not even on the bench.
The Black Cats were having to cope with lot of players unavailable, as manager Steve Bruce was without the services of Titus Bramble, Fraiser Campbell, Andy Reid and Michael Turner due to injuries. And to add to his problems, Lee Carrermole was suspended for this game owing to an accumulation of cards. To make matters even worse, Danny Welbeck's loan conditions meant that he would be unable to play against his parent club.
The game began on a slightly scrappy note as both teams were canceling each other out, but the home side hit their stride in no time as it took them only five minutes to send home the opener. Ryan Giggs could have gone to the left, but went to the right instead and found Wayne Rooney, who did very well to cross the ball to Berbatov. The Bulgarian sent a firm header downwards and past goalkeeper Craig Gordon and into the back of the net.
About 10 minutes into the game, Rooney caught the 'keeper off his line and tried a chip - from a little over 20 yards out - that went just wide of goal. Moments later a counterattack saw Berbatov hit the post from 12 yards.
Five minutes later, Giggs passed to Anderson at the edge of the box. The Brazilian managed to send in a curler with his left-foot, which beat Gordon but hit the crossbar and rolled away harmlessly.
After about 20 minutes of play, Rooney found Giggs in the area and the Welshman took a shot, but the shot-stopper made a good save to keep United from running away with the game.
It took Sunderland about 25 minutes to find some semblance of a footing, as Boudewijn Zenden tried to get past the United defence. But Vidic was on hand to dispossess the midfielder and clear the danger.
The visitors slowly began to take possession of the ball, but were unable to breach an air-tight United back line. And at one point when Darren Bent got the better of Rafael, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was on hand to make a fairly comfortable save.
A little before the half-time break, Giggs took a corner that saw defender Phil Bardsley try to clear the ball, but it only ended up at Rooney's feet. The England international sent a shot goalwards, but it lacked power and Gordon managed to stop the hosts from doubling their lead.
Sunderland came out a little stronger after the break, as midfielder Steed Malbranque shot from a little over 20-yards out. But the ball hit striker Asamoah Gyan, who in turn tried his luck from a slightly tight angle, only to send the ball well over the bar.
Celebration | Rooney and Berbatov congratulate each other for a job well done
A little less than 10 minutes into the second period, Giggs took a corner that saw Vidic head the ball towards goal. But the effort lacked any significant power as the 'keeper was able to stop the ball from getting past him.
After almost an hour's worth of play, the home side managed to double the lead as Berbatov managed to get his name on the score sheet again. Anderson fed the ball to the former Tottenham Hotspur striker, who sent a well hit shot towards goal. The shot-stopper may have managed to make a save, but of a deflection from Anton Ferdinand which was the ball cross the line and go into the back of the net.
Satisfied with what he had seen so far, the United boss decided to make a double substitution as Giggs and Anderson were taken off as Federico Macheda and Darron Gibson came on. The latter almost immediately latched on to a pass from Berbatov and sent in a shot, but being straight at Gordon it barely troubled the 'keeper.
With about 20 minutes left to go, Gibson and Berbatov were again involved in a chance, as the former passed to the latter. The Bulgarian had his back towards goal, but took a touch, turned, and then sent a superbly crafted shot towards goal. But it produced a decent reaction from Gordon as the score stayed at two goals to none.
United began to adopt a slightly more pressing tactic when they did not have the ball, while things did not appear to be as urgent as before when the possession was theirs. But Bruce's charges continued to probe in the hope of hitting the back of the net. But as it had been throughout the game, the Red Devils' defense remained fairly solid.
After three minutes of added time, the referee blew the whistle to bring the curtain down on the Boxing Day encounter. United remained on top of the Premier League, while Bruce - who used to play for the hosts - is yet to beat his former boss during his managerial career.
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