A Zlatan Ibrahimovic special and a straight red card dealt to Sebastian Larsson helped Manchester United defeat Sunderland 3-0 at the Stadium of Light.
Jose Mourinho made some surprising team changes with David de Gea missing due to an unspecified reason, Marouane Fellaini captaining the side and Luke Shaw also starting. But it was the ever-reliable goal scoring source of Ibrahimovic that gave United the edge, the Swede turning Billy Jones before rifling an unstoppable shot past Jordan Pickford and into the far corner.
Sunderland rallied with Victor Anichebe denied by Sergio Romero at close range before Craig Pawson made Sunderland’s task almost impossible, sending Larsson from the field after he caught Ander Herrera on the shin with his studs showing.
It spelled the beginning of the end for Sunderland, Henrikh Mkhitarian doubling United’s advantage with a smart finish inside the far post before substitute Marcus Rashford scored his first Premier League goal since September moments before the final whistle.
Victory for United means they leapfrog Arsenal to fifth, four points behind Manchester City and with a game in hand. But Sunderland remain rock bottom and appear certain for the drop. They next face Swansea at home, followed by trips to Middlesbrough and Hull. They will need to win all three.
Was it a straight red for Larsson? Another contentious one for Pawson to deal with. A yellow may have been the correct outcome and it ended Sunderland’s hopes.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man Utd): Another superb display from the United magician. Sublime touches all over the park, one goal and one assist.
Sunderand: Pickford 6, Jones 6, Kone 5, Denayer 7, Oviedo 6, Cattermole 6, Ndong 7, Rodwell 6, Larsson 6, Defoe 6, Anichebe 6. SUBS: Borini 6, Manquillo 6.
Man Utd: Romero 7, Darmian 6, Bailly 6, Rojo 6, Shaw 7, Fellaini 6, Herrera 6, Pogba 6, Mkhitarian 6, Ibrahimovic 8, Lingard 7. SUBS: Blind 6, Martial 6, Rashford 7.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: United close in on City with win over woeful Sunderland