Premier League - United win on Fergie's big day

Sat, 05 Nov 17:39:00 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated having Old Trafford's North Stand named after him by watching his Manchester United side complete a vital if unconvincing 1-0 Premier League win over a stodgy Sunderland.

Man Utd 1 Sunderland 0

Ferguson - who has been 25 years in charge since leaving former Scottish champions Aberdeen in 1986 - described United as "the best club in the world" in a speech to the home fans before the win that took them back to second in the table a point above Newcastle United, who downed Everton 2-1 earlier in the day.

An own goal from United old boy Wes Brown a minute into stoppage time in the first half sealed the three points for the English champions as Danny Welbeck's header hit off the central defender before landing in the net from Nani's corner.

Sunderland probably deserved a draw, but United will be happy to have collected a win at home having been thumped 6-1 at the same venue by league leaders and bitter rivals Manchester City a fortnight ago.

City were two points clear of United before they visited QPR later in the evening.

Apart from honouring Ferguson - 'fans of the club unveiled a massive banner that read 'The impossible dream - Sir Alex - 25 years made possible' - there was little else to remember from a match in which United toiled badly to get out of second gear.

The manager entered through a guard of honour formed by both teams, but exited relieved to have snagged three points from an afternoon high on tension, but low on quality.

The day began badly for Steve Bruce's Sunderland side as they lost Connor Wickham after only two minutes with the young player going to ground under pressure from Rio Ferdinand and needing to be carted off on a stretcher.

Sunderland had failed to score in seven of their last nine Premier League games against Man Utd. Since losing to the visitors in 1997, Man Utd had won 13 and lost none of the subsequent 18 Premier League matches against the Black Cats.

All the signs pointed to a comfortable day for United, but that is not how it turned for Ferguson's side as they did little of note in the first period apart from pierce the visiting net seconds before the break.

Sebastian Larsson thrashed a shot into the side of the net on 10 minutes while Ander Lindegaard was forced to pull off a smart diving stop to claw out Nicklas Bendtner's effort from distance a minute later.

Visiting substitute Ji Dong-Won scampered up the park minutes before half-time only to lift a shot over the bar. They paid dearly for such profligacy as Welbeck headed home via Brown to give United a lead they barely merited.

The home side looked a bit more like themselves in the second period, but could not find a second. Kieran Richardson knocked a Hernandez effort off the line on 62 minutes before visiting goalkeeper Keiran Westwood made a brilliant double stop to swat away efforts from Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra in quick succession.

Sunderland appeared to appeal for a penalty in the second half when the referee Lee Mason consulted the linesman after Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones had challenged Ji Dong-Won - who was deemed to have handled by the match official - in the area before waving play on.

The visiting side's final chance arrived 11 minutes from time when Bendtner just failed to connect with Larsson's ball across the face of goal as the visitors departed wondering what might have been for them.

As it was, Manchester United's victory sees them become the first team to surpass 900 home points in the Premier League. They move to 901 with this win, but more importantly maintain the pressure on city rivals City at the top of the standings.

Desmond Kane - on Twitter @DesmondKane / Eurosport

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