Manchester United 3 - 1 Sunderland

Match info: Premier League at Old Trafford

Date: 15/12/2012 KO: 15:00 Ref: C Foy Att: 75,582

Home team/scorers Scores Away team/scorers

Man Utd

Robin van Persie 16
Tom Cleverley 19
Wayne Rooney 59



Fraizer Campbell 72

FT (ht: 2-0)

  • Last Updated: December 15 2012, 18:50 GMT

Martin O'Neill believes Robin van Persie could make the difference for Manchester United this season.

Robin van Persie celebrates his goal
Robin van Persie celebrates his goal

Van Persie scored his 15th goal of the campaign as United recorded a 3-1 win over Sunderland at Old Trafford to remain six points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

The return justified Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to spend £24million on the 29-year-old last summer in the wake of City winning the title last term.

And O'Neill can see why.

"Robin van Persie was a great purchase," said O'Neill.

"It means Manchester United are capable of scoring goals because Wayne Rooney is a top quality player as well. Whilst their main players stay fit Manchester United are capable of winning the league."

O'Neill certainly wished some of the criticisms that have been levelled against United could be said of his own team now that the Red Devils will definitely be top on Christmas Day.

Tom Cleverley's first Premier League goal at Old Trafford was followed by Wayne Rooney's fifth in four games to put the hosts in control, before Fraizer Campbell grabbed a consolation against his former club.

"People keep saying we are weak in midfield but these guys are very good players," said Ferguson.

"Sometimes it gives me a little problem selecting the right two, although today was simple because (Michael) Carrick and Cleverley deserved to play after their performance (against Manchester City) last week."

Cleverley is making an impact in the Paul Scholes role, with Ferguson admitting he should be scoring more often after taking his overall United tally to three.

"Tom has goals in him," said Ferguson. "As a younger player he always had a goal in him. He has got me three this season and I really do expect more from him because he is a nice finisher."

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the day was Nemanja Vidic's return from knee surgery.

The Serbian has made just 14 appearances since August 2011 and Ferguson knows what a vital contribution he could make in the months ahead.

"It will take him a bit of time but that is a start," he said. "He is a warrior and he is our captain.

"He always battles for you and sticks his head on that ball in the penalty area. That is what he is great at."

Ferguson confirmed defender Rafael had missed only his second Premier League game of the season with a tight hamstring, which was also the complaint that forced Carrick off at half-time.

O'Neill had his own injury woes after losing top scorer Steven Fletcher at the break.

"Steven hurt his back in the warm-up before the game," he said. "He twisted it in some way and it was causing him a few problems. It got more painful in the last 10 minutes of the first half and he couldn't continue."

O'Neill does not know how long Fletcher will be out of action, although clearly any injuries are a major blow to a club only a point above the drop zone and with an already weak squad.

"We would have to be seriously looking to try to strengthen our side," said the Irishman.

"You only have to have look at the back of the programme to see that we don't have great numerical strength.

"But you are going to get injuries and suspensions. It is up to us to cope with them.

"Today was going to be hard enough without giving a couple of poor goals away. But there is still a decent spirit about us.

"We lack many things in the game but the spirit is still there and has not been broken."

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