Date:Saturday April 15 2006
MAN UTD: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown,Evra (Silvestre 67), Ronaldo, O'Shea (Solskjaer 67), Giggs,Park, Rooney, van Nistelrooy.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Heinze, Fortune.
SUNDERLAND: Davis, Hoyte, Danny Collins, Breen (Caldwell 63),McCartney, Lawrence, Leadbitter (Miller 74), Whitehead,Daryl Murphy, Stead (Le Tallec 80), Brown.
Subs Not Used: Joe Murphy, Kyle.
There is only so much you can ask of your players, and perhaps we pushed the boat out expecting United to go on ... and on ... and on ... winning matches. But if we were going to drop points, never did we ever expect it to be against the Mackems at Old Trafford!
United's title dream is ended, and I think we have to face the reality of it all. But how ironic how it was against Sunderland, who saw their own Premiership life snuffed out after a season of heartache, frustration and (let's be honest) rubbish ... from their players.
Sunderland will officially go down as the worst side the top flight has seen since the Premier League was launched in 1992, and they took a point from us in such a big match. When it meant NOTHING to them.
After nine successive wins there was genuine belief among United fans they could at least push Chelsea to the wire.
Obviously they will point to this match as the one that blew the title, but perhaps it would be fair to look at Chelsea's win over West Ham. The Blues were a goal adrift, down to ten men, and then they hit the button.
Sunderland Kelvin Davis produced the performance of his life.
Davis made at least half a dozen memorable saves, with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo all denied more than once.
And not even the introduction of old favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could turn the game in United's favour as they slunk off in almost total disbelief.
We hear it all the time from every manager - there are no easy games in the Premiership - yet never in his worst nightmares could Ferguson have envisaged this.
United hardly helped themselves and for all Ferguson's pre-match claims there would be no complacency, that is exactly how it seemed judging by the number of ill-advised flicks his team produced in the opening half-hour in particular.
Predictably, Ronaldo was the worst culprit. Every time the ball reached the Portugal winger, he appeared to look upon it as a chance to experiment.
Ronaldo was denied two glorious goalscoring chances by his own team-mates, with Nistelrooy intercepting one Rooney pass before it reached the winger. Then Rooney himself ignored his better-placed team-mate in the final minute of the first-half, although he did force a fingertip save from Kelvin Davis.
Aside from that, United's only decent opportunities came through a Giggs free-kick, which Davis saved, and a Park Ji-sung shot which flashed wide.
Around the hour mark, it looked as though his patience would be rewarded. Van Nistelrooy had a chance, so did Rooney. Ronaldo had an even better one. On every occasion, Davis, booed by his own supporters at times this season, was in the way.
Midway through the second half, with desperation mounting by the second, Ferguson introduced Solskjaer, a move which saw Rooney switch to the left flank and Park move into central midfield alongside Giggs.
The pressure became relentless, yet still Davis stood firm, turning away another well-struck Van Nistelrooy effort which was heading straight into the bottom corner.
Crosses and shots flew across the Sunderland box at all angles. Crucially though, none of them entered the net, leaving Chelsea knowing victory at Bolton will almost certainly guarantee another league title celebration at Stamford Bridge.
Date:Saturday April 15 2006
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