Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester United took another stride towards a 20th league title with a comfortable victory at Sunderland.
United's first-half winner came when Robin van Persie fired in a shot from the left which flew into the net off the knee of Titus Bramble.
Sunderland never looked like breaching a United defence that has not conceded a Premier League goal in 627 minutes.
Van Persie was denied in stoppage time by Simon Mignolet as injury-hit Sunderland finished deflated.
The result leaves Premier League leaders United 15 points ahead of Manchester City with eight matches remaining and a home derby against their nearest challengers to come on Monday week.
While manager Sir Alex Ferguson knows another league title is almost in United's grasp, the result leaves Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill looking nervously at the bottom end of the table, his side are only one point ahead of 17th-placed Wigan who have a game in hand.
Sunderland - with Danny Graham leading the line in place of the injured Steven Fletcher - started positively with the visitors initially looking a little unsure at the back but the Black Cats were unable to create a clear chance to test keeper David De Gea.
United, unbeaten at Sunderland since 1997, soon settled and began to seize the initiative as both teams sparred for the right to break the deadlock.
And the stalemate was broken as United took the lead just before the half hour with a goal that had an element of fortune.
Van Persie jinked past Phil Bardsley on the left side of the penalty box before hitting a low shot which first brushed against Bardsley, then deflected off Bramble before passing Mignolet.
Van Persie - without a goal for United in seven games - appeared to claim the strike but it was recorded as a Bramble own goal.
Ferguson was immediately forced into a change as Rafael limped off with a groin injury. Chris Smalling switched to right-back with Jonny Evans partnering Nemanja Vidic in central defence.
Sunderland goalkeeper Mignolet then did well to tip away a wickedly curling Van Persie free-kick as United threatened to increase their lead before the break.
O'Neill must have demanded more movement and energy from his depleted side during the interval after a lethargic first-half showing.
United looked more than comfortable but De Gea was anything but after an accidental clash with Vidic left him needing lengthy treatment.
Sunderland tried to raise their game after the break but United were happy to probe for a second goal while protecting their advantage.
Adam Johnson forced Smalling to head to safety from his nicely flighted cross, which De Gea, who was still feeling the effects of his collision with Vidic, was happy to leave his central defender to clear.
The home side enjoyed a better spell as the game entered its final quarter and O'Neill introduced Connor Wickham and Sebastian Larsson in a bid to put United under more pressure.
Alexander Buttner combined well with Ashley Young before unleashing a fierce shot which Mignolet did well to push away for a corner from which Vidic flashed a header wide.
United remained almost in cruise control and Van Persie was denied by Mignolet deep into injury time.
Sunderland failed to create a decisive effort on the visitors' goal as their winless run extended to eight league matches.
While the Black Cats face a fight to avoid the drop, United will freshen up their team for Monday's FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea in full knowledge that another Premier League title is within touching distance.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill:
"We were a little bit tentative in the first half and the own goal just about sums up the way things have been going.
"I think there was a little bit of tension and a lack of confidence. We gave Manchester United a bit too much time and space when they are the best team in the league.
"We tried to do something about it and we exerted a lot of pressure though without actually creating a clear-cut chances. The players were disappointed at half time but they galvanised and it was a terrific performance in the second half."
- 22 Mignolet
- 02 Bardsley Booked (Larsson - 78' )
- 16 O'Shea Booked
- 19 Bramble
- 03 Rose (Colback - 85' )
- 04 N'Diaye Booked
- 08 Gardner
- 21 Johnson (Wickham - 76' )
- 23 McClean
- 28 Sessegnon
- 09 Graham
- 20 Westwood
- 12 Kilgallon
- 07 Larsson
- 14 Colback
- 18 Mangane
- 10 Wickham
- 30 Mandron
- 01 De Gea
- 02 Rafael (Evans - 32' )
- 12 Smalling
- 15 Vidic
- 28 Buttner
- 07 Valencia
- 08 Anderson (Cleverley - 84' )
- 16 Carrick
- 18 Young
- 26 Kagawa (Welbeck - 78' )
- 20 Van Persie Booked
- 13 Lindegaard
- 03 Evra
- 06 Evans
- 17 Nani
- 23 Cleverley
- 25 Powell
- 19 Welbeck
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.90:00 +6:12
Robin van Persie takes a shot from 12 yards. Save by Simon Mignolet.90:00 +2:32
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Robin van Persie by Titus Bramble. Free kick taken by Alexander Buttner.90:00 +1:22
The assistant referee flags for offside against Robin van Persie. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.90:00 +0:53
The ball is crossed by Tom Cleverley, clearance by Connor Wickham.89:33
Shot by Connor Wickham. Save made by David De Gea.88:49
Centre by James McClean, Alexander Buttner manages to make a clearance.87:12
Shot by Stephane Sessegnon. Blocked by Nemanja Vidic.86:41
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Connor Wickham by Danny Welbeck. Craig Gardner restarts play with the free kick.85:35
Sebastian Larsson produces a cross, Nemanja Vidic makes a clearance.84:42 Substitution
Substitution Jack Colback is brought on as a substitute for Danny Rose.83:43 Substitution
Substitution Tom Cleverley on for Oliveira Anderson.79:49
Alexander Buttner has an effort at goal. Save by Simon Mignolet. Inswinging corner taken by Ashley Young, Header from close range by Nemanja Vidic misses to the right of the goal.77:54 Substitution
Substitution Sebastian Larsson on for Phil Bardsley.77:54 Substitution
Substitution Danny Welbeck replaces Shinji Kagawa.76:49
Shot from outside the box by Phil Bardsley goes wide right of the target.76:40
John O'Shea produces a cross, clearance by Alexander Buttner.75:05
Indirect free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.75:05 Substitution
Substitution Connor Wickham replaces Adam Johnson.75:05 Booking
Booking Phil Bardsley is booked.
The offside flag is raised against Robin van Persie.73:20
Unfair challenge on John O'Shea by Robin van Persie results in a free kick. Simon Mignolet takes the direct free kick.72:46
Adam Johnson has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the target.72:20
The ball is delivered by Alexander Buttner, clearance by Danny Rose.71:40
Antonio Valencia gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on James McClean. Simon Mignolet takes the free kick.70:31
Adam Johnson sends in a cross, clearance made by Chris Smalling.70:20
The ball is sent over by James McClean, Nemanja Vidic manages to make a clearance.68:36
Robin van Persie produces a cross, clearance by Danny Rose.64:33
Stephane Sessegnon produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.64:11
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Adam Johnson from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Robin van Persie.60:11
The ball is sent over by Stephane Sessegnon, save made by David De Gea.59:28
Centre by Danny Graham, Jonny Evans makes a clearance. Inswinging corner taken by Adam Johnson from the right by-line, clearance by Chris Smalling.58:56
Shot by Phil Bardsley from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.57:20
Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.57:20 Booking
Booking Robin van Persie is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.57:05
Robin van Persie challenges Craig Gardner unfairly and gives away a free kick.54:51
The ball is swung over by Alexander Buttner, John O'Shea makes a clearance.52:18
Antonio Valencia sends in a cross.51:02
Michael Carrick challenges Stephane Sessegnon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephane Sessegnon takes the direct free kick.49:17
Robin van Persie produces a shot on goal direct from the free kick, blocked by Danny Rose.49:17 Booking
Booking John O'Shea receives a caution for unsporting behaviour.49:10
Robin van Persie fouled by John O'Shea, the ref awards a free kick.47:40
The ball is crossed by Alfred N'Diaye.46:46
John O'Shea challenges Robin van Persie unfairly and gives away a free kick. Michael Carrick takes the free kick.46:05
Stephane Sessegnon challenges Michael Carrick unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Jonny Evans.45:29
Adam Johnson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alexander Buttner. Free kick taken by Ashley Young.45:01
The referee blows his whistle to start the second half.45:00 +1:06 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.45:00 +0:48
Shot from deep inside the area by Robin van Persie goes over the bar.45:00 +0:07
Corner taken left-footed by Robin van Persie to the near post, John O'Shea makes a clearance.43:46
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Phil Bardsley. Free kick taken by David De Gea.43:36
Danny Graham crosses the ball, clearance by Nemanja Vidic.40:24
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Robin van Persie by James McClean. Shot comes in from Robin van Persie from the free kick, save made by Simon Mignolet. Inswinging corner taken by Ashley Young from the left by-line.39:15
Foul by Shinji Kagawa on Alfred N'Diaye, free kick awarded. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Craig Gardner, Alexander Buttner makes a clearance.37:45
Robin van Persie has an effort at goal from 18 yards. Simon Mignolet makes a comfortable save.34:39
Ashley Young challenges Stephane Sessegnon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Adam Johnson crosses the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, Ashley Young makes a clearance.31:31
Robin van Persie takes the free kick. Ashley Young produces a curled right-footed shot from 18 yards. Save by Simon Mignolet.31:31 Substitution
Substitution Rafael Da Silva goes off and Jonny Evans comes on.31:31
Alfred N'Diaye concedes a free kick for a foul on Alexander Buttner.30:02
Phil Bardsley produces a right-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the goal.26:09
Assist on the goal came from Robin van Persie.26:09 Goal scored
Goal! - Titus Bramble - Sunderland 0 - 1 Man Utd Titus Bramble puts the ball into his own goal. Sunderland 0-1 Man Utd.25:26
Michael Carrick restarts play with the free kick.25:26 Booking
Booking Booking for Alfred N'Diaye.25:21
Antonio Valencia fouled by Alfred N'Diaye, the ref awards a free kick.25:15
A cross is delivered by Phil Bardsley, clearance made by Nemanja Vidic.24:01
Shinji Kagawa concedes a free kick for a foul on Alfred N'Diaye. Free kick taken by Titus Bramble.23:10
The ball is delivered by Antonio Valencia, clearance by Craig Gardner.18:57
Stephane Sessegnon fouled by Nemanja Vidic, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Phil Bardsley.17:52
Centre by Ashley Young, save made by Simon Mignolet. Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Robin van Persie.17:07
Ashley Young takes the inswinging corner, Nemanja Vidic takes a shot. James McClean manages to make a clearance.14:42
Shot by Craig Gardner. Blocked by Chris Smalling. Unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Titus Bramble results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Michael Carrick.12:28
The referee blows for offside against Robin van Persie. Simon Mignolet takes the indirect free kick.11:49
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Ashley Young, save by Simon Mignolet.10:16
Unfair challenge on Shinji Kagawa by Alfred N'Diaye results in a free kick. Chris Smalling takes the direct free kick.8:37
Centre by Ashley Young, John O'Shea manages to make a clearance.6:39
Ashley Young produces a cross. Phil Bardsley is penalised for a handball. Ashley Young crosses the ball in from the free kick.6:08
Craig Gardner has an effort at goal from 20 yards. Nemanja Vidic gets a block in.5:36
James McClean crosses the ball, Rafael Da Silva gets a block in. Adam Johnson takes a outswinging corner.3:58
The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by David De Gea.3:30
The ball is crossed by Shinji Kagawa, save made by Simon Mignolet.2:56
The ball is delivered by Michael Carrick, Robin van Persie takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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