Berbatov brace keeps United top
Dimitar Berbatov scored twice to give Manchester United a 2-0 win over Sunderland at Old Trafford on Sunday. The win saw Ferguson's men retain the Premier League summit.
Berbatov's double took his tally for the season to 13 goals and United could not have wished for a better start than their fifth minute opener. It should have been the springboard for them to have wrapped up the game emphatically in the opening quarter; indeed, a repeat of last month's 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn looked a distinct possibility.
Yet, somehow, United reached the interval with only Berbatov's superbly-worked opening goal to show for their superiority over a Sunderland team without seven potential first team starters. The goal came from a penetrating Ryan Giggs run through the middle of the park and a short pass to Wayne Rooney who, in turn, picked out Berbatov, lurking at the far post, with a magnificently-judged chip. The Bulgarian forward stooped to head convincingly past Craig Gordon, his 12th league goal in 13 starts for United this season.
"Dimitar could have scored four or five today," United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "He had some terrific opportunities."
"We have come into good form," Ferguson added,"We are getting that consistency, particularly in our defending. These are good signs for us."
United's attacking switch has been well and truly turned on by that early opener and Sunderland threatened to capitulate in the waves of possession that the home side enjoyed immediately afterwards. Giggs again found Rooney and the England forward lobbed a shot just wide from the edge of the area before Anderson's perceptive pass found Berbatov in the 11th minute and the forward surged into the area, defenders backing off, and thundered a shot against the post.
More woeful defending presented Anderson with the space to line up a shot which also hit woodwork, this time the crossbar, five minutes later and Park Ji-Sung's pass soon sent Rooney away only for the forward to fail to truly test Gordon who smothered his shot easily. Berbatov, also, might have done better in the 19th minute when Giggs carved open a shooting opportunity for him only for the goalscorer to this time find the side-netting.
United's dominant spell ended with the outstretched legs of Gordon keeping out a Giggs effort. Sunderland finally started to compete in midfield and take some of the sting out of the United attack. It was not until the 40th minute that the hosts again created a chance, with Anderson's speculative shot bouncing wide from outside the area. The half ended with Rooney's low snap-shot being well held by Gordon.
Finally, in the opening minute of the second half, Sunderland had a shot on goal as a favourable deflection from a Steed Malbranque shot fell for Asamoah Gyan who flashed a shot well wide from a tight angle. Anderson continued to exert his influence on the game, however, exchanging passes with Rooney and seeing his own shot charged down by some desperate Sunderland defending, before the Brazilian set up a second for United and Berbatov.
Anderson's pass was breathtaking as he looked one way, and slipped the ball the other, for Berbatov to advance a couple of strides into the Sunderland area where his shot took a cruel deflection off Anton Ferdinand and past Gordon into the visitors' goal.
Substitute Darron Gibson and Berbatov, with a 70th minute half-volley which Gordon did well to parry, further threatened the Sunderland goal and it was a sign of United's superiority that Edwin van der Sar was not required to make a save until the 80th minute when he easily kept out Boudewijn Zenden's long-range strike.