David Moyes’s first return to Old Trafford since being sacked in 2014 ended in defeat as his Sunderland side fell to a 3-1 loss at the hands of Manchester United on Monday.
Daley Blind opened the scoring for the home side in the first half before late goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan sealed all three points to move United level with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Sunderland went into the match looking for consecutive top-flight victories over United for the first time since 1951, but they were soon on the back foot at Old Trafford and Jordan Pickford was forced into an early stop to deny Paul Pogba’s low strike from a tight angle.
Marcos Rojo then let fly from range after striding forward from defence, but Sunderland did manage to limit the hosts’ clear chances despite surrendering the lion’s share of the possession and soon began to threaten themselves when Jermain Defoe fired off target following a quick counter-attack.
David de Gea, who scored an own goal the last time the teams met, was called into his first piece of action after 20 minutes when Patrick van Aanholt curled a free kick towards the top corner, but it was a good height for the United keeper to push away.
United, who spent Christmas outside the top five in the Premier League for just the second time ever, were soon back on top, though, and came within inches of breaking the deadlock when Pogba’s curling effort clipped the outside of the post on its way behind.
The best chance of the first half fell the way of Sunderland, though, when Blind failed to deal with a Defoe cross, nodding the ball straight to Victor Anichebe, who was denied by De Gea from point-blank range before Fabio Borini was unable to convert the rebound.
That sparked Sunderland’s best spell of the half, but they failed to capitalise on it and a Sebastian Larsson free kick that flew well off target was all they could create during that period.
United soon began to regain control of the game, with Pogba in particular looking dangerous with two efforts in quick succession before the hosts finally broke the deadlock.
It came through an unlikely source as Blind, back in the starting lineup this afternoon, burst into the box before collecting the ball from Ibrahimovic and burying his finish into the bottom far corner with aplomb.
Sunderland held out until half time, but they were immediately under the cosh again after the restart, with Ibrahimovic and Pogba both failing to make the most of decent opportunities inside the opening minutes.
Ibrahimovic atoned for that miss to finally secure all three points for his side with just eight minutes remaining, though, again being played into a one-on-one situation after Didier Ndong has lost possession to Pogba. The Swede took his time before placing his finish into the bottom corner for his 50th goal of 2016 – matching his personal best tally for club and country from 2012.
There was better still to come, though, as Mkhitaryan stole the show with a stunning third goal. Ibrahimovic turned provider this time and, although his cross was behind Mkhitaryan, the winger produced an outrageous flick to divert the ball into the far corner.
Sunderland did get a late consolation, and it was another memorable strike as Borini finally opened his account for the season with a dipping half-volley that picked out the top corner, but it was too little too late for the visitors as Moyes’s return ended in defeat.
United are now 11 unbeaten in all competitions and have won five matches in a row for the first time since December 2014, including three successive home victories for the first time under Mourinho.
The Red Devils sit level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, at least until Spurs take on Southampton at St Mary’s on Wednesday.
Sunderland, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone, now two points from safety following Crystal Palace’s draw with Watford.