Cattermole and Anderson challenge for the ball in a hard-fought encounter
By Phil Dawkes
Sunderland were the better side but had to settle for a point against an underwhelming Manchester United.
Bolo Zenden struck the base of the post as the home side completely dominated the opening 45 minutes after a delayed start at the Stadium of Light.
The second half was more even but the Black Cats were still the likeliest to score and would have done had Darren Bent not put a close-range effort wide.
Substitute Dimitar Berbatov's shot past the post was the closest United came.
Anything more than a point for second-placed United would have been undeserved after what was an extremely poor display by their standards and league-leaders Chelsea will hope to take advantage when they face Arsenal on Sunday.
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Sunderland were unlucky not to earn a win at Liverpool last week and will again look at this match as one from which they should have secured three points.
Kick-off was delayed by 20 minutes because of a burst water pipe in the United dressing room that caused part of the ceiling to collapse, and for most of this game the visitors were forced to stem a tide on the pitch.
A succession of early corners - none of which posed a serious threat - were testament to the home side's early dominance, which they should have capitalised on in the 15th minute.
Lee Cattermole ran into space ahead of the United defence and his superb pass fed Steed Malbranque through on goal but the Frenchman delayed his shot and gave Edwin van de Sar the opportunity to block well.
Sunderland continued to press and were denied again when Van der Sar's save was fired back into the six-yard box by Malbranque only for Nedum Onuoha goal-bound deflection cleared off the line by Nemanja Vidic.
The Black Cats came closer still before half time when Zenden's 25-yard shot hit the base of the post.
United's first-half display was epitomised by Michael Owen who, starting his first Premier League game in nine months was completely ineffectual and made way for Berbatov at the break.
And the Bulgarian was involved immediately after the restart, directing Paul Scholes' scuffed shot into the back of the net, albeit from a clearly offside position.
For Sunderland, a Zenden free-kick provided Ahmed El-Muhammadi with an initial shot that was blocked, giving the Egyptian a second bite of the cherry which he blazed over.
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Moments later, Malbranque attempted a shot from 25 yards, which deflected off Rio Ferdinand and on to the roof of the net.
And Bent, who has been in superb form this season with seven goals in his last eight matches, had a chance when Phil Bardsley found him with a pull-back from the left, but the England striker put his first-time shot past the near post.
United's brightest period of the game came with 15 minutes to go when first Nani drew a good save from Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet with a dipping shot before Berbatov fired a low drive just wide of the post.
And although both sides had late chances - Asamoah Gyan seeing an overhead kick saved for Sunderland and Nemanja Vidic going close with a diving header blocked for the visitors - the result ended in a stalemate that left the hosts still searching for a first league victory against United since March 1997.
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