Man United beats Sunderland 3-1 in Premier League

Manchester United brushed aside an overmatched Sunderland in a routine 3-1 victory at Old Trafford on Saturday to ensure Alex Ferguson's side will be top of the English Premier League at Christmas.

Robin van Persie opened the scoring when he fired into the top left corner in the 16th minute after being set up by Ashley Young, and Tom Cleverley doubled the advantage by turning in a pass from Michael Carrick three minutes later.

Despite several Sunderland chances at the start of the second half, United stretched its lead through Wayne Rooney in the 59th when the striker converted a pass from Van Persie. The visitors scored a consolation goal in the 72nd through Fraizer Campbell.

The league title has been won by the team that was top of the standings at Christmas in each of the past three seasons.

With its 10th win from 11 league games, United maintained its six-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City, while Sunderland, which has not won a league match at Old Trafford since 1968, dropped to 16th with 16 points.

The game also featured the return of Nemanja Vidic to the United side. Plagued by injuries since August 2011, Vidic's absence during last season's run-in contributed to United's defensive wobbles and the Serbian defender is viewed as the main way of plugging the leaks for a side that has kept only three clean sheets all season.

United started with a sense of purpose and Patrice Evra had already wasted one opportunity when Young wriggled away from Carlos Cuellar close to the dead-ball line, then cut a cross back that Van Persie finished expertly for his 15th of the season.

The goal also needed significant assistance from John O'Shea, who got himself into a muddle as he tried to clear Young's cross, which allowed Van Persie to profit.

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