Manchester United 1-0 Sunderland

By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Old Trafford
Sir Alex Ferguson (centre) receives a guard of honour at Old Trafford
Ferguson's 25 years in charge were marked in a ceremony before the game

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated the 25th anniversary of his appointment as Manchester United manager with victory over Sunderland - but it was not a game to match the occasion.

United honoured the landmark by announcing that Old Trafford's North Stand would be renamed after Ferguson.

They also revealed a statue of the Scot has also been commissioned that will be unveiled before the start of next season.

The party mood swirling around the stadium as Ferguson took centre stage was soon deflated by a game of low quality settled by former United defender Wes Brown's own goal in first-half stoppage time.

Sunderland boss and former United defender Steve Bruce has now failed to beat his mentor in 18 managerial meetings - but felt his side had been robbed of the opportunity to sour the celebrations when they were denied a late penalty.

Emotional Ferguson relieved to get win

The three points that keep United on the heels of Premier League leaders Manchester City were the gift Ferguson wanted most on the day Old Trafford took the opportunity to pay a lavish tribute to the legendary manager.

Ferguson entered through a guard of honour formed by both teams before joining chief executive David Gill in the centre circle - where he announced the naming of the stand in Ferguson's honour and his name was revealed from behind a veil erected on the giant structure.

The Scot then spoke of his pride at leading United for so long, but the 45 minutes that followed would not have made either Ferguson or his former captain Bruce proud.

Sunderland were forced into a change almost immediately when Connor Wickham fell awkwardly in an innocuous challenge and was stretchered off with an knee injury.

The rest of the half was virtually bereft of incident until stoppage time and Brown's unfortunate intervention as he unwittingly deflected Danny Welbeck's header from Nani's corner past keeper Keiren Westwood.

United almost extended their lead after 64 minutes when Javier Hernandez's header was cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson after he touched on another dangerous Nani corner.

The Black Cats thought they had the chance to equalise when assistant referee Jake Collin put his flag across his chest to indicate a spot-kick as substitute Ji-Dong Won made an aerial challenge with United's defenders.

Referee Lee Mason then consulted the official and awarded a free-kick for handball against the South Korean, much to Bruce's obvious disgust.

Bruce laments Old Trafford return

Keeper Westwood then ensured United did not extend their lead with 16 minutes left when he produced a magnificent double save to deny Wayne Rooney and then Patrice Evra, jumping to his feet to regain position and turn the defender's effort over the top.

Sunderland had enjoyed a fair share of possession and as they exerted pressure and Nicklas Bendtner was agonisingly close to getting a touch on Sebastian Larsson's delivery as it flew across the six-yard box.

It was the last serious scare for United as they held on to give Ferguson the victory he desired to mark the start of his 26th year at Old Trafford.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:

"It was an anxious day for the players and I think they showed that today.

"They improved in the second half but that last 15 minutes was torture.

"Sunderland threw everything into it and played very well.

"I think the players wanted to do well for me and that showed. These occasions can be a bit that way.

"I remember when we celebrated the (50th) anniversary of the Munich air disaster and we lost to City here 2-0. It certainly got to the players that day no question and there was maybe a bit of that today."

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