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The BBC's Mike Ingham
"The visitors looked relieved to hear the final whistle"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Man Utd maintain title charge
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates his first goal
Manchester United 4-0 Sunderland

Sunderland arrived at Old Trafford aiming to become the first team this season to beat the Red Devils on their home turf.

But having not won a match at the Stretford ground for 32 years it was always going to be an uphill struggle.

David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Dwight Yorke and Henning Berg all dropped down to the bench, while Andy Cole and Denis Irwin were given the afternoon off.

In came Mickael Silvestre, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Teddy Sheringham and Quinton Fortune, but the champions elect still looked formidable.

Manchester United made their intentions clear from the kick-off and Sunderland's fans were left stunned when the home side took the lead on two minutes.

Quinton Fortune

Black Cats 'keeper Sorensen was left horribly exposed after a mistake by defender Darren Williams and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rounded him easily before slotting the ball home.

In the first 20 minutes United played all the football with Fortune and Sheringham both squandering chances.

Sunderland were striving to bring themselves into the game but struggled to weather the early storm and were lucky to restrict the deficit to one goal.

The visitors' frustration manifested itself when Alex Rae was booked for a challenge on Keane from behind - but the Manchester United skipper was lucky to escape a yellow card for retaliation.

The first real chance Sunderland had came courtesy of a rare mistake from Keane who gave the ball away to Michael Gray.

Gray's cross found Niall Quinn in space in the box but the big striker , with more time than he realised, struck a rising shot well over the bar.

Sunderland's hopes were raised again in the closing minutes of the first half, but Phillips, who appeared to be clean through, was clipped from behind by a chasing Jaap Staam.


Stam was cautioned for the tackle and was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch.

The Black Cats were unable to make anything of the resulting free kick but continued to threaten an equaliser as half-time neared.

Man Utd manager Alex Ferguson was forced to put Raimond Van Der Gouw on at half-time for Bosnich after the Aussie keeper picked up an injury.

Match facts
2 mins - Solskjaer opens the scoring
51 mins - Solskjaer doubles the lead
65 mins - Butt makes it three
70 mins - Berg bags the fourth goal

Any hopes Sunderland may have had to get back on level pegging were dashed six minutes into the second half when Solskjaer made it 2-0 with a lovely piece of individual skill.

Shortly after Nicky Summerbee replaced Michael Gray for Sunderland and began supplying some promising crosses.

Sunderland continued to press for a goal but both Kevin Kilbane and Kevin Phillips were unable to make the best of their chances.

Enjoying their best spell of the match, Sunderland almost scored through Niall Quinn after Raimond Van Der Gow fumbled the ball.

Beckham replaced Paul Scholes and immediately found himself in the thick of things.

The players' desire to keep playing in matches is tremendous

Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson
His ball into the box was played into the path of Nicky Butt who struck a delightful shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.

Sunderland's misery was compounded on 70 minutes when Niall Quinn sliced an attempted clearance of a David Beckham corner allowing Henning Berg, on for Jaap Staam, to score Man Utd's fourth.

Quinn was only denied what would have been a much-deserved goal by a great save from Van Der Gouw.

The treble winners now need only four points from their remaining games to secure their sixth Premiership title in eight years.

After the match Alex Ferguson paid tribute to his players.

"Their desire to keep playing in matches is tremendous, and we hope we can get it done by next weekend.

"Then we can control the situation in terms of team selection for the remainder of the season.

"Hopefully by that time we will be talking about the semi-finals of the European Cup, and that would be a reasonable position for us."


Man Utd: Bosnich, G. Neville, Silvestre, P. Neville, Stam, Butt, Keane, Scholes, Fortune, Solskjaer, Sheringham. Subs: Van Der Gouw, Beckham, Yorke, Giggs, Berg.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Holloway, Makin, Craddock, Williams, Gray, Roy, Rae, Kilbane, Quinn, Phillips. Subs: Marriott, Dichio, P. Butler, Thirlwell, Summerbee.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough)

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