JACK RODWELL paid back a chunk of Sunderland’s £10million summer outlay after the midfielder’s first goal for the Black Cats secured a 1-1 draw against Manchester United.
Home debutant Rodwell’s leveller made it two draws in two games for the Black Cats, as Gus Poyet’s side fought back from a goal down in their Stadium of Light opener.
Against the run of play, Juan Mata gave Man United an early lead when he tapped home Antonio Valencia’s low cross.
But Sunderland pulled level on the half-hour mark when Rodwell headed home Seb Larsson’s corner.
A Connor Wickham volley which deflected just wide was the closest Sunderland came to a winner, yet it was a second half where both sides struggled to create clear-cut opportunities.
Gus Poyet made two changes to his starting line-up - one of which was enforced after Adam Johnson was ruled out through sickness.
Summer signing Will Buckley took Johnson’s place in the side, to make his full Sunderland debut.
Santiago Vergini was also included, after receiving his international clearance, with the Argentine coming in at right-back at the expense of Valentin Roberge - a change which saw Wes Brown reunited with John O’Shea at centre-half.
Robin van Persie returned for Manchester United to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, while Tom Cleverley and Antonio Valencia were also introduced.
Javier Hernandez and injured pair Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera were the players to miss out.
There were signs of nerves from United within the opening 60 seconds when an awful crossfield pass from Ashley Young sent Connor Wickham away, just inside the opposition half.
Wickham’s attempted through-ball was intercepted just as Steven Fletcher was ready to pounce, before Young scrambled the rebound away as Buckley raced in.
Three minutes later, Valencia’s throw-in was intercepted on the edge of the area by Fletcher before Lee Cattermole fired a couple of yards wide.
Buckley produced a sparkling run in the 15th minute to go beyond two United defenders before threaded a perfectly weighted through-ball to Wickham, in behind the visiting back-line.
But Wickham, to the left of goal, could only scuff a harmless left-footed shot into the arms of David de Gea.
Sunderland were punished for that miss seconds later when Antonio Valencia skipped past Patrick van Aanholt far too easily and drove a low cross into the six-yard box which was tapped in at the far post by the Mata, who had lost the attentions of Seb Larsson.
Initially, that goal took the sting out of the hosts, yet Sunderland pulled level on the half-hour mark when Larsson’s corner from the right was met by Rodwell’s downwards header, which left de Gea with no chance.
United boss Louis van Gaal was forced into a change two minutes before the interval, when Michael Keane replaced the injured Chris Smalling.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 Man United 1
Sunderland went desperately close to taking the lead in the 51st minute when Buckley picked out Wickham down the left-hand side of the area with a chipped ball over the top.
Wickham managed to bring the ball under control before striking a volley which was blocked inside the six-yard box by Tyler Blackett before spinning just wide of the post.
Sunderland had an escape just after the hour mark when Vergini made an excellent last-gasp tackle to deny van Persie before John O’Shea delivered a suicidal square pass across the penalty area to Wes Brown.
Young raced onto the loose ball and went down under Brown’s tackle, only for referee Martin Atkinson to book the United man for diving.
With 15 minutes to go, Larsson curled a right-footed free-kick a couple of feet wide from 25 yards out.
Moments later, Vito Mannone produced a magnificent sliding challenge to tackle Young when the England winger would have been clean through on goal to Danny Welbeck’s pass.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Man United 1
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell (Gomez 64), Larsson, Buckley (Bridcutt 79), Wickham, Fletcher (Altidore 76). Subs not used: Pantilimon, Jones, Mavrias, Roberge.
MAN UNITED: De Gea, Jones, Smalling (Keane 43), Blackett, Valencia, Young, Cleverley, Fletcher (Januzaj 63), Mata, Rooney, van Persie (Welbeck 63). Subs not used: Amos, Hernandez, Kagawa, James. Booked: Young (62), Cleverley (67)