The opening ten minutes or so on any other night would have been classed as lackluster. On night's like tonight though it's only fair to say that it was cagey from both sides.
The visitors offered little going forward during the period, while Sunderland -- backed by some magnificent vocal support again -- did what little pressing there was.
After eight minutes we had a taster of what Marcos Alonso may offer us as he bombed forward to put in a very tasty cross which nobody gambled on. Minutes later Fabio Borini roamed inside and snatched at an effort which trickled wide of David De Gea's goal.
Both sides continued to trade blows, however it was Sunderland who began to do the bulk of the good work and applied a lot of pressure on the Manchester United goal, even if it didn't yield the desired results.
Alonso was impressive throughout and got another good cross into the area. Had it not been for a deflection off Nemanja Vidic, Steven Fletcher was only inches away from tapping the ball in at the far post.
The pressure continued and with a lack of clear cut chances made by Sunderland, you wondered if they would be left to rue their profligacy. Even more so when Ryan Giggs hammered a shot off the bar via the back of Emanuele Giaccherini.
If that wasn't close enough it wasn't long before Adnan Januzaj thought he'd put the visitors into the lead only to find Giggs in an offside position, having played a significant role in the chance falling to the youngster. Close, but not close enough.
With the storm weathered Sunderland went back on the front foot and looked to end the half the stronger, which they did when a combination of Phil Bardsley and Ryan Giggs combined to give the home side the lead.
Seb Larsson fired a ball into the back post from deep where Wes Brown eluded Michael Carrick to knock the ball with ease back across the face of goal. In comes a steaming Bardo with Giggs to bundle the ball in, the final touches coming off the Welshman.
That's how the half ended, and Sunderland very much good value for the lead, but by no means in a position to rest on their laurels as the disallowed goal proved.
The visitors started the second half the brighter and were back on level terms with just six minutes played via the head of Nemanja Vidic.
A simple header in from close range following a corner kick is somewhat disappointing. O'Shea allowing Vidic to roam free and get a strong header on the ball, Mannone opting to stay rooted to his line with the ball int he six-yard area. Blame could be applied to the pair for what was a cheap goal to give away.
Gus Poyet felt it time to ring the changes straight after the goal with Adam Johnson coming on for a once again underwhelming Emanuele Giaccherini.
Both teams reacted to the goal by fashioning half-chances in what was becoming an end-to-end contest.
Adnan Januzaj caught a half volley from range but it was an easy gather for Vito Mannone. At the other end Fabio Borini latched onto a flick from Steven Fletcher and headed towards goal, perhaps taking too many touches before getting a shot away which wasn't cleanly struck and went wide.
On the hour Seb Larsson should have had Sunderland in the lead. An easy, unmarked chance from inside the area was volleyed into the ground with power and straight at De Gea who pushed it wide for an ineffectual corner.
Larsson's blushed however were spared when Adam Johnson won Sunderland a penalty, converted in style by Fabio Borini.
Johnson skipped away from Tom Cleverley who chased the winger down as he surged into the area. That's where legs became tangled and a penalty was awarded, at first by the linesman before the referee agreed.
Up stepped Borini with a little shuffle in his run up who rifled the ball into the roof of the net with De Gea helplessly diving the wrong way to hand Sunderland the lead.
In the midst of the penalty being given, Rafael was booked for dissent. This is pivotal as a few moments later the Brazilian should have been sent off having caught Borini on the foot for what was a clear freekick and carding. No surprises that Andre Marriner bottled the big decision leaving Poyet infuriated.
For the final twenty minutes it was all Manchester United. Thankfully though this isn't the United of old and what we saw was wave after wave of toothless attacks from the visitors.
Januzaj had two chances, one a volley from the edge of the area which went well wide and another where he dinked the ball beyond the far post with Mannone beaten.
Patrice Evra shot wide with seemingly no intent or purpose to his effort. Phil Bardsley, who had an excellent game, provided some very timely tackles and clearances to hold on to the lead and snuff out any further attacks.
Sunderland's attacking for the day was seemingly done when Fletcher was replaced by Jozy Altidore as the Scotsman picked up an injury. That's not a slight on the American, just from then on we resorted to long balls for him to chase rather than trying to fashion anything.
With fingernails well and truly gnawed off Marriner somehow found five minutes of added time to play. Thankfully all the visitors could muster was a very poor effort from Michael Carrick.
The final whistle blew to a great relief. Sunderland take a 2-1 lead to Old Trafford in just over two weeks time, and were worth every inch of it.
United brought something to the party. They pressed well for a spell in the first half and got a goal in the second half, however overall it has to be said that Sunderland were the better side, and can enjoy a deserved victory tonight, with one foot on Wembley way.
We'll have more match reaction later on with Player Ratings and more. Give that a read when it's ready, HERE!