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BBC Sport's Ron Jones reports
United sink Sunderland
 real 14k

Gary Neville
"To get a win is a big relief for us"
 real 14k

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
"I think the referee was really strong"
 real 56k

Black Cat's boss Peter Reid
"The referee spoilt a good game of football"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 21:41 GMT
Sunderland sunk as three see red
Andy Cole
Andy Cole is restrained as he and Alex Rae are sent off
Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United

Three players saw red as Manchester United increased their lead at the top of the Premiership to 15 points in the stormiest of encounters.

Andy Cole scored the only goal of the night but was later sent off, as were Sunderland's Michael Gray and Alex Rae.

Cole handled before netting, but the offence went unpunished.

Gray saw red for dissent while Cole and Rae were sent off after squaring up to each other.

Lively

Sir Alex Ferguson made two changes from the team which lost to West Ham with Paul Scholes and Gary Neville replacing Nicky Butt and Denis Irwin respectively.

Sunderland carved out the first chance when Jody Craddock's free-kick sqeezed through to Kevin Phillips who hammered his shot wide of the target.


The referee was right to send off Andy Cole and Alex Rae. He had no choice
  Sir Alex Ferguson

United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez almost paid the price for a poor clearance when the ball fell to Rae, who volleyed towards the empty net only to see the ball slide wide.

Sunderland lost Niall Quinn because of a shoulder injury after less than half an hour.

Kevin Kilbane replaced the big striker, leaving Phillips to carry most of the attacking burden with Don Hutchison pushing further up.

Sunderland striker Niall Quinn
Quinn had to go off after 28 minutes

For all the endeavour of both teams, there was no sign of a goal through to the half time whistle.

The nearest was a curling David Beckham free-kick which was gratefully grasped by Thomas Sorensen.

Barthez - forever the entertainer - spent more time out of his penalty area than in it, preferring to act as a sweeper whenever the opportunity arose.

Red cards

The game sprang into life a minute after the break when United went 1-0 up and Sunderland had Gray sent off.

Craddock mis-cued a clearance and Cole lifted the ball over the advancing Sorensen and into the net.

The goal stood but the former Newcastle hit man clearly handled during the build-up.

Sunderland were incensed and Gray vented his anger at referee Graham Poll, who had no hesitation in showing the red card for foul and abusive language.

Hutchinson almost equalised but his free-kick whistled just past the post before Keane missed a great chance at the other end for the visitors.


There was certainly no commonsense out there from the referee
  Peter Reid

Poll was in the thick of the action again when Cole and Rae squared up to each other after a goal-mouth scramble and made head-to-head contact.

There was no actual head butt but the contact was enough for both players to be dismissed for violent conduct.

The atmosphere among the record 48,260 crowd became increasingly hostile and one fan had to be restrained after jumping over the pitchside barrier.

Tempers on the field calmed and while United looked to press home their advantage, Sunderland went close when Kilbane's shot was saved by Barthez.

Sunderland almost pinched an injury time equaliser but Phillips shot wide and Varga's free-kick was saved to leave United in command at the top.


Sunderland: Sorensen, Williams, Gray, Varga, Craddock, Rae, Hutchison, McCann, Phillips, Quinn (Kilbane), Schwarz Thome) (Makin). Subs: Ingham, Oster.

Man Utd: Barthez, G Neville, Stam, Brown, Silvestre (P Neville), Beckham, Keane, Scholes (Butt), Cole, Sheringham (Solskjaer), Giggs. Subs: Van der Gouw, Yorke.

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

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31 Jan 01 |  Worthington Cup
Birmingham storm into final
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