Manchester United 1 – 0 Sunderland
Manchester United made sure that Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary at the club was a day to remember by winning all three points against Sunderland. The red devils did about just enough on the field, although even that could have proved to be insufficient had former Man United defender Wesley Brown not headed the ball into his own net.
In fairness, the party at Old Trafford had started long before kick-off. Banners glorifying Sir Alex Ferguson had been hung all around the place and a commemorative magazine had been given to every supporter present at Old Trafford. The players from both team even formed a guard of honour as Sir Alex walked into Old Trafford to meet David Gill who was awaiting him on the field. What happened next was completed unexpected, as workers present on the roof of the stadium removed a white banner to reveal the letters ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’ while David Gill announced that the North Stand of Old Trafford had been renamed after the manager. Even the gaffer looked taken aback while David Gill went on to explain that a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson had also been ordered. Thunderous applause and ‘Fergie, Fergie’ chants erupted around Old Trafford as an emotional Sir Alex took the mike to express his pride at having worked “ for the greatest football club in the world" and to have managed "some of the greatest footballers we've ever seen in this country."
What followed on the field was a lot scrappier though. A first minute unfortunate knee-injury to Sunderland forward Connor Wickham resulted in a four-minute delay as he had to be stretched off and possibly contributed to the slow start of the match. Chances were few for the home side as the players failed to combine in the final third of the field. The real opportunity came when Phil Jones, operating at right-back, broke forward to send a 20-yard volley over the crossbar on 43 minutes. That lifted the crowd and United continued to press, with a Nani volley moments later forcing Westwood into a crucial near-post save. From the corner that followed, it appeared that Danny Welbeck had scored for Man United, although replays showed that it was Wes Brown who had headed the ball into his own net.
The second half proved to be livelier as Man United went in search of a second goal. They almost claimed one when Javier Hernandez’s headed in the 64th minute seemed goal-bound, but former Manchester United player Kieran Richardson cleared off his line. Minutes later, Sunderland thought they had won a penalty when Sebastian Larsson’s cross was handled inside the Man United penalty area. After consultation with his linesman, the referee finally awarded a free-kick to the home team. Replays showed that it was a correct decision as it was Sunderland player Dong-Won Ji who had committed the hand-ball.
Sunderland’s goalkeeper Westwood then produced a magnificent double save to deny the red devils. He first kept out a Wayne Rooney shot before pushing Patrice Evra’s attempt from the rebound over the bar to keep the Black Cats into the game. Sunderland threw everything they had at Man United in the final 15 minutes, but the Man United players held on bravely to make sure that Sir Alex Ferguson’s special day was not ruined.