Sunderland 0-0 Manchester United: Home Side Dominate But Fail To Capitalise

Ferguson's charges prolong their travel sickness.
Sunderland largely dominated the encounter against Manchester United, but only had a draw to show for their efforts as the travelers' defense held true.

The home side had several chances to break the deadlock, with Steed Malbranque, Boudewijn Zenden and Darren Bent coming close, but it was a stalemate at the end of 90 minutes plus added time.

Black Cats boss Steve Bruce was without striker Danny Welbeck, as the youngster was not eligible to feature against his parent club. Anton Ferdinand had only just returned from a hamstring injury, and had to settle for a spot on the bench. Kieran Richardson and John Mensah were out with hamstring and calf injuries respectively.

In the meantime, Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many with his decision not to field striker Dimitar Berbatov, as the forward was only handed a spot on the bench. The Bulgarian had been in impressive form this season having scored six league goals - topping the goal scoring charts in the process.

And with Wayne Rooney not being risked during this encounter, and Berbatov having retired from international football, it raised a few eyebrows when the gaffer chose to given Federico Macheda and Michael Owen a look in.

Rio Ferdinand remained in the heart of the defense to start his second game of the week, while midfielder Michael Carrick was left out of the squad having played the entire game against Valencia.

A water pipe in the United dressing room was reported to have burst prior to the start of the game, which saw the match being delayed but about 15 minutes.

When the game did begin, it was Sunderland who were in control during the initial stages, as Ferguson's charges spent the first 10 minutes fending off attacks from the home side.

Nani tried to play Macheda in on goal as United tried to recover from the opposition's early domination, but defender Michael Turner was up to it as he thwarted the attack from turning lethal.

But the Black Cats continued to be the better side as midfielder Lee Cattermole played Steed Malbranque in with a well timed pass, but the one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar saw the goalkeeper coming out on top. The former Tottenham man hesitated for a fraction of a second before taking his shot, which gave the veteran shot-stopper just enough time to anticipate what was to come.

After 30 minutes, the visitors were finally beginning to get back into the game with a good spell of possession, but nothing came of it as Bruce's charges eventually continued where they had left off a few minutes earlier.

Boudewijn Zenden unleashed a well struck swerving effort from range that had the 'keeper beaten, but unfortunately for him the ball struck the post and rolled away harmlessly.

Tough game | Sunderland put United's defense to the test

Just before the break, Rafael went down the flank and sent in a cross that caught 'keeper Simon Mignolet on the wrong foot, but the young shot-stopper did well to recover and catch the ball.

Having seen his side come out second best in the first half, the United brought on his most potent weapon as Berbatov came on for Owen. The Bulgarian instantly put the ball into the back of the net redirecting midfielder Paul Scholes' ill-timed shot, but the goal was correctly ruled out as the striker was in an offside position.

With both sides' defenses holding their own, the Scot decided to withdraw Macheda and bring on his midweek hero Javier Hernandez to recreate his performance in Valencia. The Mexican instantly got into the game as he had an opportunity through a cross from John O'Shea, but his header went wide as defender Titus Bramble did just enough to put him off.

With a little over 20 minutes to go, Malbranque had a go from range that took a deflection from Ferdinand, but the tension eased for Van der Sar as the ball went over the crossbar. But it was only minutes before striker Darren Bent got a great opportunity to break the deadlock, but his shot went wide.

Both sides went for positive substitutions as the United boss gave Bebe his Premier League debut, while Asamoah Gyan came on for the Black Cats.

With a little less than 10 minutes to the finish line, Berbatov let one fly from 20-yards out, but his shot went wide as the score remained goalless.

Sunderland continued to create and probe for that elusive winner, but the points were shared as the referee brought the game to a halt.

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