DAILY TELEGRAPH (James Mossop)
He scored the goal that broke the opposition’s spirit. He made the one that condemned Sunderland to another weekend of soul- searching….the Stadium of Light dazzled to his tune.
Until Rooney’s inspired, opening Pele-Best strike Sunderland had been a blaze that needed dousing but there were too many holes in United’s bucket.
Sunderland’s surge of attacking play was based on solid teamwork. Man for man they were inferior but Andy Welsh was lifted by the occasion.
Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly unhappy with his static midfield and was a frequent visitor to the touchline with an admonishing finger.
(Sending on Rossi) almost had a back-fire of major proportions as a speculative left footer from Stephen Elliott finally eluded Van der Sar. When Van der Sar was forced into another fine save from Le Tallac’s free kick it looked doubly ominous.
THE OBSERVER (Spencer Vignes)
Sunderland had plenty of spark, with Stephen Elliott and Andy Welsh giving United’s defence plenty to think about.
Until (Rooney’s goal), the match had been all Sunderland. They could, perhaps should, have been two ahead, but continually paid the price for wanting an extra touch in front of goal.
Rooney’s opener visibly deflated Sunderland, with United taking control throughout the early stages of the second half.
A second goal duly arrived after 76 minutes. That seemed to stir Sunderland, who reduced the deficit six minutes later thanks to Elliott’s outstanding curled effort from 25 yards. They could even have equalised when substitute Anthony Le Tallec’s free-kick brought a marvellous save low to his right by Van der Sar
The Sunderland manager spent much of the afternoon sarcastically applauding the travelling supporters for all the pro-Roy Keane chanting being thrown in his general direction.
SUNDAY PEOPLE (Steve Bates)
Sugar Ray Leonard would surely have admired Sunderland’s gutsy ring craft as they took the fight to United. But they foolishly led with the chin and that proved fatal.
McCarthy’s stars battled themselves to a standstill it steadily got worse as United’s breathtaking speed on the break brought late goals for van Nistelrooy and sub Rossi.
Even the most red-eyed United punter would have found it hard to deny that Sunderland should have been at least a goal up at the break. United’s midfield struggled to contain the enthusiasm and bullish aggression of Sunderland in the early stages.
‘People’ ratings: Davis 6 – Nosworthy 6, Breen 6, Caldwell 6, Hoyte 6 – Lawrence 6 (Le Tallec 62mins, 6), Miller 6, Whitehead 6, Welsh 5 (Robinson 85mins) – Gray 6 (Stead 62mins, 5), *ELLIOTT 7.
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY (Simon Turnbull)
…a Premiership contest in which Manchester United trod water for the opening 40 minutes.
Sunderland lack vital clout in front of goal but almost landed a blow in the 13th minute, Edwin van der Sar producing a brilliant reflex save to keep out Gary Breen’s thundering header.
McCarthy’s suddenly subdued side were in danger of being overwhelmed by a transformed United in the second half.
SUNDAY SUN (Jeremy Robinson)
But despite leaving their opponents reeling on the ropes for long spells, typically fluid footwork from Premiership heavyweights Manchester United ultimately left Sunderland flat on the canvas.
McCarthy’s battlers certainly went the distance with their classier opponents though – and could have been genuine contenders for a share of the spoils had they kept their guard up.
After succumbing to a typically classy United counter-punch minutes before the interval, they never really got back on the front foot.
The opening passages of play saw Sunderland battling to deny their more illustrious opponents space and time on the ball and the Wearsiders were the first to carve out a clear-cut chance.
By the time the final bell was rung, those in the Sunderland corner were left wondering whether the outcome might have been different if Arca and Basilla had been playing.