United strike twice after Gardner opener.
Two goals from league debutant Adnan Januzaj saw Manchester United come from behind to beat a brave Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light.
The hosts got off to an ideal start thanks to Craig Gardner’s goal after just five minutes and carved out several other opportunities during a scintillating first half.
But United grew stronger after the break as Januzaj equalised 10 minutes into the second period before firing home his second goal just after the hour.
That double blast was enough to see United to victory but Sunderland’s interim head coach, Kevin Ball, will take plenty of positives from his side’s efforts, particularly in the opening half.
They could have scored more than the one goal they netted in the first 45 minutes, with Emmanuele Giaccherini causing the visitors all sorts of problems.
But two pieces of clinical finishing proved to be the Black Cats’ undoing in the end.
Ball opted to make two changes to the side which was defeated by Liverpool, bringing in Valentin Roberge and Ondrej Celustka in place of Carlos Cuellar and Seb Larsson.
And the home side got off to a dream start with an opening goal inside five minutes, almost lifting the roof off the Stadium of Light.
Giaccherini’s trickery eased him into a crossing position, Phil Jones’ hurried clearance struck United captain Nemanja Vidic and dropped nicely for Gardner, who drilled the ball low into the far corner.
Gardner’s goal – his second of the campaign – was superbly taken and had the visitors on the back foot.
The former Birmingham midfielder was at the centre of action again soon afterwards, seizing on a mistake by Jones out on the left to surge towards goal. However, he was stopped by a fine tackle from the recovering defender, who spared his own blushes with a sliding challenge.
Sunderland’s play was full of zip and energy but United remained dangerous on the counter, with Januzaj firing just wide from the edge of the box after good work from Michael Carrick.
And Nani should have at least tested Keiren Westwood when he met Patrice Evra’s deep 20th-minute cross at the back post only to fire wastefully across goal and wide, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Again and again Sunderland got stuck in to disrupt United’s passing game and they could have doubled their advantage 11 minutes before the break.
Adam Johnson’s drilled cross picked out Giaccherini, who did well to cushion a header goalwards only for David De Gea to pull off an outstanding one-handed reaction save away to his right.
The first half finished in breathless fashion with both sides carving out opportunities.
Nani’s rising drive was well beaten out by Westwood at his near post, while at the other end the dangerous Giaccherini fired over from 12 yards from Johnson’s clever pull-back.
But United were level 10 minutes after the break when Evra’s low cross from the left was tucked home in on the run by Januzaj from 15 yards.
The goal clearly gave United a surge of confidence and only a good diving save from Westwood prevented Robin van Persie from scoring with a smart turn and first-time shot.
But the Irish keeper could do nothing about Januzaj’s second goal just after the hour – the winger latching onto a loose ball to the left of goal and finding the far corner with a fine volley.
Wayne Rooney threatened when he bought a yard of space on the right-hand edge of the box, but his shot was wild and sailed well over Westwood’s crossbar.
Ball – who had already introduced Larsson and Ji Dong-won – looked to force the issue 12 minutes from time by replacing Ki with Connor Wickham, who slotted in alongside Jozy Altidore up front.
And his side rallied late on, with Larsson firing Lee Cattermole’s crossfield ball across the box to no avail as the clocked ticked into the final five minutes.
But United's van Persie had the best chance of the final moments, shooting narrowly wide after getting a clear sight of goal.
Goalkeeper Westwood advanced into the United box for two corners deep into injury time, but the visitors held firm to ensure there would be no late drama.
- Yellow O'Shea
- Yellow Gardner (Larsson)
- Ki (Wickham)
- Johnson (Ji)
- De Gea
- da Silva (Smalling) Yellow
- Vidic Yellow
- Rooney Yellow
- Almeida da Cunha (Welbeck)
- Januzaj (Valencia) Yellow
- van Persie
- Adilson Cabral