Manchester United ground out a gritty, yet invaluable win over Sunderland to extend a record-breaking start to the Barclays Premier League season.
Robin van Persie's 27th-minute strike deflected off Phil Bardsley and Titus Bramble for the only goal of the game, making United the only team to win 25 of the first 30 games of a top flight season in England.
A mixed display from the Reds might have yielded more in a one-sided first period, but the relegation-threatened hosts improved markedly after the interval to keep United on the back foot for long periods.
Mindful of Monday’s looming FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea, Sir Alex Ferguson made good his pre-match suggestion that he would chop and change his squad to absorb the rigours of a congested calendar.
Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Chicharito were omitted completely from the 18-man party, while Patrice Evra savoured the rare experience of starting the game on the bench.
That meant a second successive start for Alexander Büttner, with the Dutchman on the left side of a defence also comprising Rafael, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic ahead of goalkeeper David De Gea. Michael Carrick partnered Anderson in central midfield, flanked by Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, while
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