Manchester Utd 2 Sunderland 0: Brown sees red as Cats suffer Old Trafford misery

Wayne Rooney hits Manchester United's penalty opener against Sunderland today
Wayne Rooney hits Manchester United's penalty opener against Sunderland today

WAYNE Rooney’s double inflicted a third defeat in four on 10-man Sunderland after an unconvincing Manchester United ground out a 2-0 victory.

Sunderland remain three points clear of the drop zone after fellow strugglers Burnley and Aston Villa also suffered losses, yet the Black Cats were left ruing their failure to profit from an uninspiring display from the hosts.

Referee Roger East awarded the penalty, and then dismissed Brown, even though it was O’Shea who was the principal offender.

Gus Poyet’s men had started the game excellently, with Connor Wickham drawing a smart save out of David De Gea.

United put more pressure on as the half wore on - John O’Shea smashing the ball against his own crossbar - but for an hour, Sunderland coped comfortably with the attacking threat of Louis van Gaal’s side.

However, the game changed in the 64th minute when Radamel Falcao was brought down by a combination of O’Shea and Wes Brown, and United were awarded both a penalty and Sunderland were reduced to 10 men.

Referee Roger East opted to send off Brown, rather than O’Shea, even though it looked as if the skipper was the principal offender.

Rooney converted the penalty and from that point, the hosts coasted through to the finale, with the England captain doubling the advantage with five minutes to go.

Connor Wickham, Jordi Gomez and Patrick van Aanholt all returned to the starting XI, with Danny Graham, Ricky Alvarez and Santiago Vergini missing out.

Alvarez was ruled out altogether due to a knock, with academy product Duncan Watmore taking the vacant place in the squad on the bench after recovering from a broken leg.

Wayne Rooney reverted to his natural striking position for Manchester United, with the England captain partnering Radamel Falcao up front after Robin van Persie was ruled out through injury.

Ex-Sunderland loanee Jonny Evans came in at centre-half for the absent Phil Jones.

Sunderland had a scare inside the opening four minutes when Angel Di Maria’s left wing corner was not defended well by the visitors, but Rooney sent his free header a yard wide of the near post.

Moments later, David De Gea denied Sunderland the opener at the other end after a lightning-quick break from the Black Cats following a good challenge from Patrick van Aanholt on Di Maria.

Van Aanholt took it to halfway before feeding Wickham, who drove towards the United penalty area and then unleashed a low shot which was smartly turned around the post by De Gea.

Jermain Defoe then sent a looping shot over the bar from 25 yards after Lee Cattermole had robbed Rooney.

The lively start to the game continued, with Sunderland just managing to scramble away a dangerous 12th minute inswinging free-kick from Di Maria.

Sunderland only got the ball as far away as Ashley Young, just inside the box, who sent a powerful right-foot half-volley inches over the top.

Defoe should have made more of a half-chance when he was fed by Wes Brown, midway inside the United half, and made half-a-yard on Evans, 25 yards out.

But Defoe’s right-footed shot was weak and it was comfortable for Dea.

Sunderland had started the game excellently, but it needed the woodwork to prevent John O’Shea inadvertantly handing his former club the lead in the 26th minute.

Antonio Valencia got free on the overlap down the right and his cross from the by-line went through to Young at the back post.

Young’s sent a right-foot shot across goal, which deflected off O’Shea’s outstretched right foot and crashed against his own crossbar.

The former Aston Villa man went close again in the 34th minute with a low shot from 25 yards which curled just past the far post.

Rooney then saw a free-kick from 20 yards tipped over the bar by Costel Pantilimon, before Marcos Rojo’s effort from the resulting corner was hacked away off the line by Seb Larsson.

HALF-TIME Man United 0 Sunderland 0

Louis van Gaal made a change at the break, with Adnan Januzaj replacing Di Maria, who had been a liability on the ball and persistently gave it away.

It didn’t’ make a dramatic change to United’s attacking threat though, with Sunderland continuing to look comfortable at the back.

Januzaj thrashed a shot wide from 25 yards in the 62nd minute after Sunderland could only partially clear Rooney’s free-kick.

But the game changed two minutes later when Falcao brought Januzaj’s right-wing cross under control neatly, got between O’Shea and Brown, before going down under pressure from the pair with only Pantilimon to beat.

Referee Roger East awarded the penalty, and then dismissed Brown, even though it was O’Shea who was the principal offender.

Rooney took the penalty and placed it immaculately in the bottom left-hand corner.

Pantilimon prevented Januzaj doubling the advantage in the 71st minute when he pushed away the winger’s shot from the right-hand side of the area.

Daley Blind then tried his luck from long-range, which Pantilimon just managed to clear before Rojo could get to the rebound.

United put the game to bed with six minutes to go when Januzaj received the ball on the right-hand side of the box and hit a low shot which Pantilimon could only parry straight in front of him.

Rooney was straight onto the rebound and headed it into the unguarded net.

United saw a third goal ruled out in stoppage time when substitute Marouane Fellaini’s shot was saved by Pantilimon and Ander Herrera was well offside as he tucked home the rebound from Januzaj’s pass.

FULL-TIME Man United 2 Sunderland 0

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea, Smalling, Rojo, Evans, Valencia, Blind, Herrera, Young, Di Maria (Januzaj 46), Rooney (Mata 85), Falcao (Fellaini 67). Subs not used: Lindegaard, Carrick, McNair, Wilson. Booked: Valencia (45)

SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Reveillere, O’Shea, Brown, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson, Gomez, Johnson (Fletcher 81), Wickham (Graham 67), Defoe (Vergini 67). Subs not used: Mannone, Bridcutt, Coates, Watmore. Sent off: Brown (65). Booked: Van Aanholt (79)

Referee: Roger East

Attendance: 75,344