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Sunderland 0 Manchester United 0: match report
Published : 02 Oct 2010 17:30:18
Sir Alex Ferguson would have been forgiven for kicking up a stink at the Stadium of Light but his complaints could only have been because he had seen his title-chasing side outplayed rather than the plumbing problems that disrupted his team. The Manchester United manager's team were in a right mess on and off the field. They were unable to leave Wearside with the sweet smell of success in their nostrils with a below-par show, and were lucky to escape with a point after a sewage leak in their changing room just before kick-off. Sunderland 2 Blackburn Rovers 1: match reportThe burst pipe flooded and apparently stank out the visitors' dressing room, forcing referee Chris Foy to delay the kick-off by 20 minutes to "facilitate the re-organisation of changing facilities and kit" for United, according to Sunderland officials. Ferguson had probably seen - or smelled - nothing like this in his 24-year reign at Old Trafford, as the players' suits were ruined by the sudden deluge, but worryingly for the Scot his team's problems were not confined to plumbing issues alone as his side were outplayed by Steve Bruce's men. United failed to overcome the disruption to their build-up as Sunderland began brightly and should have taken an early lead when Lee Cattermole slipped the ball delicately through to Steed Malbranque, but the Frenchman choked and Edwin Van der Sar saved his tame close-range effort. Nemanja Vidic then had to come to his side's rescue when he blocked a goal-bound shot from Nedum Onuoha as United lived dangerously and were pinned back into their own penalty area. Sunderland's veteran Dutch midfielder Bolo Zenden then sent a 25-yard daisy-cutter thudding against compatriot Van der Sar's right-hand post as the pressure on the lacklustre visitors - clearly missing the injured Wayne Rooney's cutting edge - intensified. Darren Fletcher did his best to invigorate United but the closest Ferguson's side came to stealing an undeserved lead came when Nani curled a free-kick narrowly wide, before Simon Mignolet was forced into his first save of the game in the 43rd minute to keep out Rafael da Silva's wayward cross. In a bid to revive his side, Ferguson sent on Dimitar Berbatov at half-time in place of Michael Owen and the move appeared to have paid instant dividends when the Bulgarian steered Paul Scholes' shot past Mignolet, but the goal was over-ruled for offside. Sunderland then proceeded to dominate their opponents, forcing Ferguson to send on Chicarito in place of Federico Macheda in search of a repeat of his late winner in the Champions League game in Valencia. However, despite Ferguson's changes, Sunderland continued to pose the greater threat and Malbranque saw a shot deflected just over Van der Sar's crossbar, before Darren Bent misdirected the enterprising Phil Bardsley's cross as United struggled to get going. As Sunderland ran out of steam, United's menace rose and Mignolet had to be alert to repel Nani's dipping long-distance shot, and then Berbatov should have scored but dragged his shot wide. Sunderland substitute Asamoah Gyan threatened a late winner with an overhead kick but Van der Sar comfortably. The stalemate means United remain undefeated, but their fourth draw on opposition territory means Ferguson's team trail leaders Chelsea and could lose further ground and lose their grip on second place on Sunday when the pacesetters take on third-placed Arsenal and fourth-placed Manchester City host Newcastle.