Sunderland visited Old Trafford on Boxing Day and lost 2-0 like they were supposed to.
United came out of the gates like a cartoon horse that'd just been branded. Berbatov scored within five minutes after Giggs made a marauding run through the center and fed Rooney, who curled his cross onto the Bulgarian's head.
Berbatov and Anderson each hit the post while Rooney came very close with a delicate chip, all within the first 20 minutes.
After that, as is usual, United took their foot off the gas, and you wondered if they'd blow another lead.
Eventually, around the 60th minute, they started dominating possession again. It paid off yet again. Berbatov braced on XX minutes when his trivella from inside the box took a great deflection.
Sunderland achieved their only shot on target with a few minutes left, a 30-yard driven shot from Zenden, which his co-patriot saved easily.
The final scoreline was 2-0. Why didn't I bet on that beforehand? In hindsight it seemed so obvious.
van der Sar: 8: Had one save to make. Kicked some goal-kicks. Bravo, sir, bravo.
Rafael: 7: Awesome to see Rafael getting more mature while retaining his buccaneering style. United's first-choice right back put in a quality shift today.
Ferdinand: 7.5: Extremely composed. One of the best footballing central defenders in Europe, still.
Vidic: 9: So utterly dominant.
Evra: 7: Up and down the wing, very effective on attack, made few poor challenges.
Park: 7: Even I have to admit he looked good today. That doesn't make him good, but he at least appeared to be against the Wearsiders.
Carrick: 5: So frail and expressionless. Passed the ball forward so few times. It's always square or back for this pusillanimous being. Get his ass outta here. Even on a day when he plays well he's scarcely above average.
Anderson: 7: Provided bustle up the middle. Distinguishes himself from his peers by dribbling in the position. Must improve his passing, though. Hit the post.
Giggs: 7: Made a few vintage runs today. Nice to have his natural width, even if his natural time is soon approaching. Subbed.
Berbatov: 8.5: I defended him all of the last two years. This season I don't have to. Scored importantly on a header and finished the game with a fortunate deflected goal. Could have scored others, which means he was either penetrating or wasteful. Neat tricks and balanced as ever.
Rooney: 7: Some decent cross-field passes and such. Assisted Berbs on the first with a delicate curler. Also almost resembled Cantona on another chipped effort from outside the box. Profligate with the ball at his feet, aimless when driving at defenders. More suited to a central midfield role.
Gordon: 7: Kept his side in it while they often defended poorly around him.
El Mohamady: 6.5: What a funny name. I thought he did decently going forward and got stuck-in about.
Onuoha: 6: Central defenders are hard to come by. He may be one for the future. I think he'll look better on other days.
Ferdinand: 6: Didn't do too much beside repel many attacks, and what more can you ask, really? But he got skinned here or there and was out of position at times.
Bardsley: 4: Tried too hard to impress.
Malbranque: 5.5: Tried to spell his side forward. But, it was never going to be enough.
Henderson: 6: Good engine, eager to express himself. Could have played better or definitely worse.
Riveros: 5: Did little to distinguish himself.
Zenden: 7: Had the experience and gumption to at least attempt to get something from the game for his side. Unperturbed throughout a trying match.
Bent: 3: I realized he was playing in the 65th minute.
Gyan: 5: Apparently he looks decent when he's not playing against Monster Vidic.
United grabbed the two points in a predictable scoreline. The first twenty minutes were perhaps their best football of the season. However, the Red Devils need to start playing that hard throughout the whole match, instead of just at the beginning or end of each.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!