Squeaky Bum Time: Manchester United Fragile at the Top

Nigel AssamContributor IApril 11, 2009

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Federico Macheda of Manchester United is lifted up by team mate Wayne Rooney after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at The Stadium of Light on April 11, 2009 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Manchester United squeezed past Liverpool to retain their lead in the Premier League with their 2-1 victory over Sunderland. But it was a victory that almost was not to be after a fragile performance by United, were it not for a 76th minute goal by Federico Macheda, last week's savior.

Ferguson's gamble paid off in the 76th minute when, after replacing Dimitar Berbatov with Macheda in the 75th minute, Michael Carrick's shot on goal was tipped in by the young Italian.

United began the match with a 14-second threat on goal by Wayne Rooney, whose right-footed shot went just wide.

Fighting against relegation, Sunderland were not to be checked, as in the seventh minute they almost scored, but Ben Foster showed why he is the future No. 1, scrambling to secure the ball just before the goal line after fumbling and letting it go.

In the ninth minute, Scholes' shot went wide, and in the 17th minute Vidic, back after suspension, almost put United up with a header from a corner that was deflected and then an overhead kick that sent the ball just wide.

Two minutes later, Scholes redeemed himself from his red card against Fulham by putting United ahead, winning the ball in the air off a Rooney cross, and scoring his third goal of the season.

However, at least a few times in the match, United's defense looked brittle, and in the 26th minute, Vidic's back pass to Ben Foster caused panic among United's supporters, what with a Black Cat lurking close by.

Another threat by Kenwyn Jones almost put Sunderland level in the 33rd minute. Foster again showed his quality by denying Cisse a chance for glory as he tipped the Frenchman's shot over the crossbar.

In the second half, the constant threat of Jones paid off in the 55th minute after Foster failed to clear a cross and the Trinidadian slipped the ball into the net with the outside of his right foot.

In the 69th minute, Ferguson decided to gamble and brought on Cristiano Ronaldo for Ji-Sung Park, whose attempts at goal were admirable, especially his shot just before the half-time whistle. Six minutes later Macheda came on and scored only a minute after, making it his second goal in his second first-team appearance.

Despite being back in the lead, United's display today was nothing like the recent form prior to their losses to Liverpool and Fulham. The seats at Old Trafford are being worn away under anxiety, and with seven matches left for the season, they will continue to be worn down.