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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sunderland Vs.Manchester United Match Report

A week ago, few outside of Old Trafford had heard of Kiko Macheda. After two vital winners in the space of six days, however, the 17-year-old Italian has been catapulted into a starring role in United's ongoing Premier League title defence.

While last Sunday's winner against Aston Villa was a piece of last-gasp artistry, this input at the Stadium of Light had more than a touch of fortune about it, but it was still enough to procure three priceless points after Kenwyne Jones had cancelled out Paul Scholes' opener.

Three points was all the Reds deserved, it has to be said, for a performance which was occasionally slapdash, but largely dominant against a Sunderland side severely lacking in confidence after a poor recent run of form.

Sir Alex Ferguson made a host of changes to the side which contested Tuesday's pulsating draw with Porto, with the return of Jonny Evans and Dimitar Berbatov from injury providing a welcome boost. Scholes was included alongside Michael Carrick in midfield, and the veteran schemer ensured United were ahead by the interval.

Only a heroic block from Callum Davenport stopped the midfielder's 20-yard blockbuster testing Craig Gordon after nine minutes. Shortly afterwards, Scholes again found space in the area but opted to find Rooney, whose cross sailed over.

Djibril Cisse saw his shot deflected over as the hosts briefly rallied, but United looked by far the more likely to make the breakthrough. A minute later, Nemanja Vidic powered Rooney's corner goalwards, only for Danny Collins to scuff the ball off the line. From the ensuing scramble, the Serb sent an acrobatic overhead kick a yard wide of Gordon's goal.

The Reds weren't to be denied for long, however, and Scholes opened the scoring after 19 minutes. Berbatov held the ball up superbly before feeding Rooney, and his left-wing cross was clinically helped into the top corner by the experienced head of the diminutive midfield magician.

That took Scholes' career haul to 98 Premier League goals, but of far greater importance was laying the foundations for United to chalk up another three points. Having surrendered leads against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Porto with varying degrees of consequence in recent weeks, the need for a second goal was immediately apparent.

Plenty of possession ensued for United, but with few chances to show for their dominance. Inevitably, one or two jittery moments would follow as Sunderland grew in confidence; Djibril Cisse saw a shot palmed over by Foster and Jones headed straight at the England international, but the greatest scare came from a man in a Red shirt.

Carlos Edwards shifted space away from Nemanja Vidic before drilling in a cross from the right wing, and Evans could only watch and hope as the ball deflected off his shin, against Foster's far post and out to safety. Ji-sung Park then flashed an effort fractionally over Gordon's top corner, but United's interval lead remained a precarious one.

Within moments of the restart, Rooney thundered a magnificent 25-yard effort just past the top corner. The Reds would shortly be ruingthat missed opportunity, and the concession of another sloppy goal. Tainio did well to fashion space down the left wing, and Foster failed to reach his teasing cross - giving Jones the chance to cushion and convert from close range.

The inevitable disappointment was scarcely tangible in United's approach, however. Scholes was within inches of restoring the champions' lead as his 20-yard snapshot arced agonisingly wide, while Tevez was thwarted by a combination of Gordon and his desperate defenders.

As time wore on, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to shuffle his pack with the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo and, shortly afterwards, Macheda at the expense of Park and Berbatov. Within a minute, the Italian had made another stunning impact.

Carrick's errant shot was heading wide as it entered a muddled cluster of home and away players, but spun away from Gordon and into the corner of the goal via Macheda's left instep. Deliberate or not - and he, a striker by trade, will tell you that it was - United had re-assumed a vital lead.

The goal took the wind out of Sunderland's sails. United, in desperate need of the three points to again overhaul Liverpool at the top of the table, clung on for grim life, seeing out the final 15 minutes in relative comfort - albeit with breath held, peeping between fingers for those packed into the away end.

Another nerve-wracking 90 minutes down, another three points. Watching United just wouldn't be the same without going through the wringer.

Sunderland Vs.Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Sunderland [1 - 2] Manchester United
19' [0 - 1] P. Scholes
55' [1 - 1] K. Jones
76' [1 - 2] F. Macheda

0-1 P.Scholes 19'

1-1 K.Jones 55'

1-2 F.Macheda 76'