Saha The Saviour

  • 3 September 2007

Manchester United managed to break down a stubborn Sunderland to record a second successive 1-0 victory.

Roy Keane, on his return to Old Trafford, had his Sunderland side organised and solid but on 70 minutes the deadlock was finally broken by French striker Louis Saha.

United winger Nani whipped in a corner and the powerful striker got himself in front of Craig Gordon to head home.

Even as fiercely focused, driven and ambitious a man as Keane could scarcely have imagined his side would have such a relatively easy time.

Gordon was forced into a trio of decent saves, denying Carlos Tevez, Eagles and Paul Scholes, but the Scotland keeper could hardly claim to have been extended by the limited bombardment on his goal.

United's lack of penetration was clear for all to see and the introduction of Saha for Anderson at half-time was one of the least surprising substitutions Ferguson has made. Instantly, Tevez had the freedom to roam around as he wished, the Sunderland defence now fully occupied dealing with Saha's more direct approach.

Danny Higginbotham, one of four former United players in the visitors' squad, was at full stretch to prevent Saha getting on the end of Rio Ferdinand's long ball. Tevez was onto the loose ball in a flash but could not beat Gordon from 20 yards.

The Sunderland keeper was now heavily involved and he produced his best save of the match to turn away Saha's volley after the Frenchman had spun off Higginbotham.

Nemanja Vidic then turned Owen Hargreaves' corner narrowly over as United turned the screw and their next corner heralded the breakthrough.

Gordon will certainly not be wanting to look at the video again as he came to collect Nani's set piece and got nowhere near it as Saha, standing amid a pile of bodies, glanced home.

Hargreaves and Darren Fletcher wasted late chances to double United's lead but with Cristiano Ronaldo and, possibly, Wayne Rooney available for the trip to Everton in a fortnight, Ferguson will just be glad to have the points in the hope of better to come in the months ahead.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Eagles (Fletcher 66), Hargreaves, Scholes, Nani (O'Shea 84), Anderson (Saha 46), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Carrick.

Booked: Vidic.

Goals: Saha 72.

Sunderland: Gordon, Nosworthy, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins, Leadbitter, Yorke, Etuhu (Miller 82), Wallace (Stokes 82), Chopra, Jones (Murphy 69).
Subs Not Used: Ward, Kay.

Booked: Leadbitter, Chopra.

Att: 75,648.

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).