Macheda Rescues United Again

Federico Macheda rescued Manchester United for the second successive league game as his goal sent the champions back to the top of the Premier League.

That result looked unlikely as United again showing signs of tiredness in an indifferent display until 17-year-old Macheda made his decisive contribution.

With one eye on next Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second-leg tie against Porto, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson rested keeper Edwin Van der Sar, left-back Patrice Evra and winger Cristiano Ronaldo. There was also no Rio Ferdinand because of injury but Jonny Evans passed a late fitness test and partnered Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence, while striker Dimitar Berbatov was handed a shock start despite pre-match reports of an ankle problem.

Wayne Rooney started on the left with Carlos Tevez partnering Berbatov up front and United predictably dominated early possession against opponents who relied on strike duo Djibril Cisse and Jones to provide them with an outlet.

It took United until the 15th minute to create the first real chance but Danny Collins superbly cleared Vidic's header off the line from Rooney's inswinging corner.

However, United were in front under a minute later as Rooney was afforded far too much time and space on the left flank and curled in a teasing right-footed cross which found Scholes, who looped a near-post header over Gordon for the opener.

Bardsley was causing problems down United's right and Jones, under pressure from Gary Neville, was just wide from one of his teasing crosses as Sunderland edged close to an equaliser.

Just before the break Park Ji-Sung fired just past the angle as United finished an indifferent first-half performance on a positive note.

Following the re-start, Rooney sent a fierce shot inches wide but it was Sunderland who were the next to celebrate as Tainio beat Park down the left and sent in a teasing cross which Foster fumbled into the path of Jones, who bundled the ball home from close range. The goal seemed to galvanise United and Scholes was unlucky to see a half-volley fizz just wide of Gordon's post.

Half-chances for Tevez and Berbatov followed with Sunderland relying on the counter-attack and Ronaldo was introduced with 20 minutes remaining as United desperately sought inspiration.

But it was another substitute, Macheda, who made the required impact just seconds after coming on by redirecting Michael Carrick's wayward shot into the corner of the net with a deft left-foot flick.

Victory sent United top with seven games left while Sunderland slipped closer towards the relegation zone with the Black Cats just two points off the bottom three.

Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Davenport (McShane 73), Collins, Edwards, Leadbitter, Tainio (Yorke 85), Reid (Murphy 80), Cisse, Jones.

Subs Not Used: Fulop, Malbranque, Ben-Haim, Colback.
Booked: Ferdinand.
Goals: Jones 55.

Man Utd: Foster, Neville, Evans, Vidic, O'Shea, Park (Ronaldo 69), Carrick, Scholes, Rooney, Berbatov (Macheda 75), Tevez (Anderson 82).

Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Evra, Giggs, Nani.
Booked: Neville, Rooney.
Goals: Scholes 19, Macheda 76.

Att: 45,408
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).