Cole leaves it late to sink Sunderland

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The Independent Online

Sunderland 1 Manchester United 2

Andy Cole dragged Manchester United back from possible FA Cup ignominy last night when he scored a goal after 89 minutes of this third-round replay on his first visit back to the North-east since his pounds 7m transfer from Newcastle 12 months ago.

Phil Gray had given Sunderland the lead after 24 minutes, but before Cole scored his eighth goal of the season, Paul Scholes seemed to have ensured extra time with a goal seven minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Alex Ferguson viewed the match by saying "we have had our fright", a reference to the 2-2 draw in the first match at Old Trafford in which United only secured a draw with a late goal by Eric Cantona. Nevertheless, there was no lack of menace for the Premiership side, cultivated by a hugely enthusiastic home crowd.

Ferguson's line-up hardly suggested out-and-out boldness either, the United manager shoring up a defence that has appeared frail away from home of late by playing a back five. After only two wins in 10 matches, caution was prevailing.

It needed to as Sunderland, teeth bared and sharp in the role of underdogs, snapped at the feet of their opponents. After eight minutes, Phil Gray and Martin Smith got in a tangle on the edge of the area after United's three centre-backs mysteriously disappeared and only a timely flick from Paul Parker prevented Phil Gray getting in a shot nine minutes later.

United had looked uneasy but were gaining some poise when Sunderland tripped them with a goal. Martin Smith's 25th-minute cross was cleared by Steve Bruce only as far as Michael Gray, who pushed it forward to Steve Agnew. He changed the angle of the attack with a first-time pass across the area and Michael Gray slipped the ball past Peter Schmeichel as the giant Danish goalkeeper tried to spread his body.

On the half hour it should have been 2-0 as the Grays, Phil and Michael, again showed their quick wits to bounce the ball off each other into Agnew's path. The balding midfielder was a stride ahead of Bruce, but this time Schmeichel had more time to prepare and his left hand shot out to clear the danger.

United, looking a lot less than a division's length better than their opponents, had attacked without real threat and the closest they came to scoring before half-time was a header from Cantona that passed a foot the wrong side of a post.

A Manchester backlash was predictable and with their attack reinforced by Lee Sharpe, one duly arrived, but the waves were broken by a player whose brain normally makes a blade look blunt: Cantona. After 48 minutes, Giggs - one of few United players living up to his reputation - sped through two tackles and passed to Cantona. The Frenchman had only a split second to shoot, instead he turned inside and the chance was gone.

Three minutes later, he looked more distracted when he allowed Cole's cross to be intercepted by Alec Chamberlain on the edge of his area. Only one team was showing passion and the bravery to dare, and it was not United. But as they flagged, Scholes produced a piece of invention after 69 minutes. Philip Neville cut in from the left and found the striker, who drove the ball into the far corner from 20 yards out.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Scott; Smith (Mullin, 50), Agnew (Martin Gray, 73), Bracewell (Howey, 89), Michael Gray; P Gray; Russell.

Manchester United (5-3-2) Schmeichel; Irwin, Parker (Sharpe, h-t), Bruce, G Neville, P Neville; Butt (Scholes, 62), Keane, Giggs; Cantona, Cole. Substitute not used: McClair.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Blackburn humbled, More reports, results, page 23