Manchester United restored their six point league at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable 3-1 victory over struggling Sunderland.
The home side’s first half performance was as good as they’ve produced all season, and should have been more than two goals to the good going into the break.
Two goals in three minutes from Robin Van Persie and Tom Cleverley effectively killed off any Sunderland challenge.
The first was a simple finish from Van Persie, his fifteenth of the season, whilst Tom Cleverley clinched his first league goal of the season with a brilliantly controlled finish following great build-up play involving several United players.
Wayne Rooney should have put his side three goals ahead when he narrowly missed a half-volley from a headed Van Persie lay-off. Nevertheless, the striker completed United’s scoring midway through the second half following clever footwork from Van Persie and equally appalling defending from Titus Bramble and his fellow defenders.
Sunderland improved drastically during the second half, but by the time they offered a reasonable challenge to the home side, the game was as good as gone. Frazier Campbell pulled a goal back with twenty minutes of play remaining, a period of the game that was unnecessarily nervy for United.
Campbell had a decent chance to score a second, whilst David De Gea had to pull off a couple of good saves to keep the visitors at bay.
The mini-revival that Sunderland enjoyed during midweek against Reading was inevitably cut short by United, but if Sunderland are to remain in the top division they will have to improve their defensive play.
Following this defeat, they currently occupy 16th position, just one point above the drop zone. It is vital that they gain something from next week’s clichéd ‘six-pointer’ against 17th placed Southampton.
As for United, they have been given a relatively kind Christmas schedule. Next week they face a tricky game away to Swansea, then its two home games against Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion respectively.
They will be more than happy to enter the new year with their six point advantage over City intact.
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image: © vagueonthehow