Jan Kirchhoff made a goalscoring return as Sunderland under-23s stretched their winning run to four matches at Manchester United in the Premier League 2.
The German midfielder clocked up 90 minutes as he made his first appearance since the start of October after recovering from a hamstring injury.
However, it was one of the other returning Black Cats who gave them the lead as Seb Larsson’s deflected effort went past a helpless Kieran O’Hara on 44 minutes.
While Sunderland were fortunate with the goal, Andy Welsh’s side went into the break deservedly ahead as Lynden Gooch was tireless in his efforts throughout.
Manchester United started the second period the better but never looked like scoring and that played into the Black Cats’ hands as Kirchhoff delivered the knockout blow shortly before the hour mark.
From there, it could’ve been four or five as Gooch, Larsson and Rees Greenwood were denied by fine attempts.
Manchester United came on strong in the final moments but Sunderland held on to secure an impressive three points and a valuable clean sheet.
Kirchhoff made his return from injury and he started alongside fellow first-team players Mika, Larsson, who was also on the comeback trail, and Lynden Gooch.
With the inclusion of those players that allowed Welsh to shuffle his pack as Joel Asoro and Josh Maja provided an option off the bench while George Honeyman featured on the right flank.
After a quiet start from both sides, the visitors turned the heat up as Larsson sent a thunderous strike whistling over the crossbar from 20 yards.
Manchester United failed to clear their lines from the Swede’s free-kick from the right, George Brady was denied with a header before Greenwood’s sweetly struck effort rebounded off a host of bodies and then into Larsson’s path for him to invitingly hit it.
Gooch then went through, after powerful play from Kirchhoff saw him industriously win the ball, however the American shaved the outside of the post as he looked to find the bottom corner.
At the other end, Mika was rarely tested in the opening period as both sides seemingly cancelled each other out as they continued to trade blows.
However, the Portuguese stopper did have one save to make and dealt with it incredibly well as he got down at point-blank range to smother the ball.
Sunderland ended the opening 45 in the ascendancy as Larsson’s deflected shot went beyond a helpless O’Hara to give the visitors a slender lead at the break.
The hosts failed to clear their lines as Greenwood and Gooch made themselves as nuisance inside the box. United cleared the ball to the edge of the box but there was the Swede lying in wait to take aim.
Nicky Butt’s side were much improved in the second period, as expected, and quickly had Sunderland back pedalling as they searched for an equaliser.
However, United lacked a goalscoring threat and the Black Cats could seemingly sense that as they patiently waited for their moment to strike.
With 59 minutes on the clock, Greenwood’s close control saw him waltz his way into the box and past O’Hara before a quick glance spotted Kirchhoff well placed for him to duly deliver the rest as he lashed the ball home.
Sunderland were flying and playing with their tails up, Greenwood poked the ball over the bar before Gooch left O’Hara scampering across his goal with a fierce drive from 30 yards.
United looked to change things by introducing Demetri Mitchell for Tosin Kehinde but the Black Cats refused to let up and continued to sink their claws in.
Larsson, Kirchhoff and Ethan Robson pulled all the strings in the centre of the park and were key to dismantling the bulk of United’s attacks.
The hosts came on strong in the final minutes but Mika was equal to their best drive as the Black Cats secure all three points and a valuable clean sheet.
Manchester United: O’Hara, Poole, El Fitouri (Olosunde, 78), Tuanzebe, Williams, Goss, Kehinde (Mitchell, 66), Willock (Scott, 78), Redmond, Harrop, McTominay.
Unused subs: Moutha-Sebtaoui, Doughty
Sunderland: Mika, J Robson (Casey, 90), T Robson, Ledger, Brady, Greenwood (Molyneux, 87), Honeyman, Kirchhoff, Larsson, E Robson, Gooch (Maja, 81).
Unused subs: Stryjek, Asoro