Manchester United moved above local rivals Manchester City to the top of the Premier League table after a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford. After City’s defeat to Tottenham earlier in the day, United now sit a point clear, and in a position few would have countenanced just a few weeks ago.
Sunderland, still rooted to the bottom of the table, were always unlikely to halt the revival United’s revival since their demoralizing defeat to Swansea City at the end of last month. But Dick Advocaat’s men were able to at least frustrate the home side for almost the entire first half. As has often been the case this season, United had been lacking any spark going forward in the early stages. Crucially, though, they got the breakthrough just before the stroke of halftime.
In the fourth minute of injury time, Daley Blind strolled forward, arrowed a superb pass in behind for Juan Mata, who volleyed across goal for Memphis Depay to turn in. A Manchester United goal was always going to be difficult for a Sunderland side set up to pack men behind the ball to recover from. And the second half proved a predictable stroll for the new table-toppers.
Just 38 seconds after the restart, Wayne Rooney got his first Premier League goal of the season in unconventional fashion, turning in Anthony Martial’s cross with his knee at the near post. The match saw Martial fail to become the first player in 43 years to score in his first three league appearances for Manchester United, but his assist was part of a performance that again provided plenty to encourage from the most expensive player in history.
Now playing with more freedom and tempo, Louis van Gaal’s side made the victory an emphatic one in the final minute. Again it was a low cross that did the damage, this time Ashley Young cutting back for Mata to coolly fire the ball high into the net.