Date:Sunday May 13 2012
SUNDERLAND FINISHED the campaign with a fairly limp defeat by Manchester United, a result which was not enough to secure the Red Devils the title.
Defeat consigned the Black Cats to 13th in the league thanks to Wayne Rooney's 20th minute header.
Martin O'Neill rang the changes with David Vaughan in for Lee Cattermole, Frazier Campbell in for Ji Dong-Won and Titus Bramble in for Matt Kilgallon.
Sir Alex Ferguson started with Ryan Giggs playing off Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young out wide.
The first half was virtually a training exercise for the Red Devils who dictated play virtually from the off without making O'Neill's side pay.
Rooney nearly opened the scoring when he clipped a deft free-kick off Simon Mignolet's bar from the edge of the penalty area.
With 20 minutes on the clock, United took the upper hand with the first twist of a dramatic afternoon.
From a teasing right-wing cross, Rooney was left unmarked to stoop at the far post and put United into the lead.
The goal did not spark a response from Sunderland and it could have been two when Rooney and Valencia somehow failed to fully connect with Young's low cross.
With the half coming to an end, Sunderland finally clicked and Stephane Sessegnon came close with an acrobatic poke wide of goal, the linesman's flag rendering the effort irrelevant.
Vaughan sent a volley crashing toward goal only for a United defender to block the thunderous attempt.
With an O'Neill sized rocket up their backsides, the Black Cats were much brighter in the second period and immediately took the game to the hosts.
Both Sessegnon and James McClean should have done better when low centres fell to them on their wrong feet.
United were not out of the contest though as the hosts cranked up the pressure.
Simon Mignolet made a tremendous double save to deny Paul Scholes a thoroughly struck effort and Young the follow-up.
Young was again frustrated as he latched onto a loose ball before firing against a grounded Black Cat's defender and over for a corner.
By the final whistle, United had held up their end of the bargain but events at the Eithad Stadium saw the Premier League trophy handed to their city rivals.
Sunderland were victim of some questionable refereeing from Howard Webb as well as their own lack of patience and fluency.
A number of defensive and midfield configurations hindered the side but the overriding factor was the lack of movement and patience in the build-up which saw moves break down and restrict the number of genuine chances.
Telling was the fact that Nicklas Bendtner did not even get a place on the bench, whilst Wayne Bridge only came on toward the end after stand-in left back Phil Bardsley joined John O'Shea in being replaced following a knock.
There will doubtless be a number of players coming and going this season to build a deeper, more talented squad than O'Neill has had to work with since December and although the final run of nine without victory was very disappointing it's a more positive end to the season than if Steve Bruce had still been in charge.
Over to you Martin...
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley (Bridge), Bramble, Turner, O'Shea (c) (Elmohamady); Vaughan (Wickham), Colback; Campbell, Gardner, McClean; Sessegnon.
Subs not used: Westwood (gk); Ji, Meyler & Kyrgiakos.
Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra (c); Valencia, Scholes, Carrick, Young (Nani); Giggs; Rooney.
Subs not used: Amos (gk); Rafael, Park, Owen, Berbatov & Hernandez.
SAFC MOTM: Jack Colback.
Attendance: 46 452
Referee: Mr H Webb
Date:Sunday May 13 2012
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