United win ensures title race will go to the wire

Sunderland 0 Manchester United 1

Portugal international Nani ensured the race for the Barclays Premier League title will go down to the wire as Manchester United edged past Sunderland.

Hours after Chelsea had established a four-point lead over United with victory at Liverpool, United once again reduced it to just one, courtesy of Nani's 28th-minute strike.

They will now head into next Sunday's final day showdown with Stoke at Old Trafford knowing that effectively only a win can give them a 19th league title, and even that will not be enough if the Blues beat Wigan at home.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his players left the north-east at least having given themselves a chance on an afternoon when they could have made things much more comfortable for themselves with striker Dimitar Berbatov passing up a hat-trick of glorious opportunities.

However, the manager's record of never having lost to a team managed by former United defender Steve Bruce remained intact, and while there is hope, he will not give up on the big prize.

Sunderland signed off their home campaign with a committed display in front of a crowd of 47,641, but on an afternoon when Fabio Capello's representatives were at the Stadium of Light, England hopeful Darren Bent had little opportunity to stake his claim for a seat on the plane to South Africa.

United ran out knowing their title bid had reached the point of no return as a result of Chelsea's 2-0 victory at Anfield, which left them needing to win at the Stadium of Light and at home against Stoke next Sunday to have any chance to overhauling the Blues.

They set about their task with some relish, but against opponents who were never likely to let them have things all their own way.

On a bitterly cold afternoon on Wearside, United created chances from the off, and it took a good fourth-minute save by Craig Gordon from Wayne Rooney, and then Phil Bardsley's block from Ryan Giggs' follow-up, to keep them at bay.

However, only Chelsea and Aston Villa had won at Sunderland this season, and the Black Cats, who were only denied a famous victory at Old Trafford in October by Anton Ferdinand's late own goal, caused problems of their own.

Central defender John Mensah lasted only 18 minutes before his injury problems struck again, but he headed wide from Jordan Henderson's 13th-minute corner, and skipper Lorik Cana was only just off target with his effort from a Steed Malbranque free-kick three minutes later.

Edwin van der Sar had to pull off a fine one-handed save to keep out Malbranque's rasping 24th-minute shot, and the home fans started to believe that a surprise could be on the cards.

However, United got their noses in front four minutes later when, after Giggs and Berbatov had caused problems on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area, the ball was fed out to Nani and he blasted a low shot past the helpless Gordon and into the bottom corner.

Bruce's men were dealt a major blow eight minutes before the break when young midfielder David Meyler was stretchered off with what looked like a nasty knee injury, and their fortunes could have taken a further turn for the worse before the half-time whistle sounded.

Berbatov failed to make the most of good work by Giggs and Rooney deep inside their own half when he allowed himself to be dispossessed by Michael Turner on the edge of the box before he could shot.

The Bulgarian was wasteful once again in injury time when Rooney once again set him up, but with just Gordon to beat, he could not hit the target.

United could, and perhaps should, have had the win wrapped up within seven minutes of the restart.

First Nani was denied his second goal of the game four minutes after the restart when Gordon made a fine save as he burst into the penalty area, and then Berbatov spooned a shot over from point-blank range with the goal at his mercy.

It was simply not the striker's day, and he could not believe his luck when he met Giggs' 56th-minute cross with a firm header just yards out and saw Gordon deflect it over the crossbar.

The home side started to make an impression as the half wore on, but with strikers Bent and Fraizer Campbell seeing little of the ball, central defenders Nemanja Vidic and Johnny Evans were rarely stretched.

But substitute Michael Carrick saw his 78th-minute effort hacked off the line by Turner and although Sunderland pushed all the way to the whistle, they could not find a way back.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil