Manchester United kept their place at the head of the Barclays Premier League on Boxing Day, Sunday 26th December 2010, with a straightforward 2-0 home win over Sunderland at Old Trafford.
A goal in either half from Dimitar Berbatov proved to be the difference between the two sides, though United could, and perhaps should, have been out of sight at half time, such was their early dominance in this match.
It took Berbatov just 5 minutes to settle home fans’ nerves, however, as the big striker found himself unmarked at the backpost to head home a Wayne Rooney centre following good work from veteran Ryan Giggs.
Berbatov and Anderson both hit the woodwork in an opening half during which United threatened to run away with this match. As it was, the sides came in with Manchester United leading 1-0 and sunderland, yet to have a shot on target, clinging to the game for dear life.
After 12 minutes of the second half, Berbatov had all but extinguished any hopes of a second half fightback from the visitors with a deflected shot which found its way into Craig Gordon’s net.
United had started this match without Nani, who is injured, and Darren Fletcher, though they had plenty of strength to defeat a spirited Sunderland side who were themselves without seven of their usual best XI.
Despite matching the hosts in terms of possession, the difference between the sides was clearly in the final third, where United’s vastly superior shot-count and ever-present goal threat showed why they are top of the league and Sunderland remain in 7th place.
That the margin was narrow come the end of 90 minutes demonstrates well how far Sunderland have come in recent seasons. That the scoreline could have been 4 or 5 to nil shows how much ground they have still to make up on the Red Devils.