Starting in a midfield that also contained George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch, Kirchhoff strolled through most of the game. The big German should have scored in the second half and found himself in the referee's book following some handbags right before he was taken off in the 64th minute.
The opening exchanges of the match were fairly slow and the tempo of the game wasn't played at a particularly fast pace. But, as the half grew on, it was the away side who created the better chances - had it not been for an outstanding save from Polish stopper Max Stryjek, United attacker Devonte Redmond would have almost certainly put his side ahead in the 11th minute.
And the pressure from the away side continued throughout the first half, culminating in a goal for the away side when Donald Love gave away a penalty which was neatly dispatched by Demetri Mitchell to put Manchester United deservedly ahead.
Their lead was doubled soon after - Sunderland failed to clear their lines and after a ball deflected off George Brady, Scott McTominay struck from distance to strengthen Manchester United's hold on the game.
Right before half time came Sunderland's best chance - with an empty net in front of him, a shot from Rees Greenwood deflected into Lynden Gooch's path but he was unable to put the ball on target, instead hitting the outside of the post.
Sunderland started the second period much brighter and were kicked into life through the introduction of Joel Asoro, who replaced Josh Maja at the break. His impact was almost immediate as he jinked his way into the Manchester United box, putting a chance on a plate for George Honeyman, who then skied his effort from close range over the bar.
Sunderland’s next best chance came through a rather unlikely source in Jan Kirchhoff - having won the ball back just inside the United half he sauntered into their penalty area, jinking past a handful of defenders before shooting just wide of the post with his left foot.
And moments afterwards Kirchhoff found himself in the referee's booking following a flare-up with one of the Manchester United goalscorers, Scott McTominay, who also received a yellow card for his part in the fracas. The German midfielder's night ended soon after, being replaced in the 64th minute by Elliot Embleton.
The away side put the game to bed with twenty minutes left to play, when Devonte Redmond - who had been a nuisence all night - tucked away a rebound following a save from Stryjek to make it three-nil.
Elliott Dickman's side had a late shout for a penalty in the 78th minute when Joel Asoro was pushed from behind in the Manchester United box, but his appeals were waved away. The young Swede provided his team with some much needed energy in the second period and gave Sunderland fans hope for the future - it's easy to forget that he is just seventeen, and still has plenty of time yet to develop.
The game ended on a sour note for the eventual winners when Regan Poole was sent off after collecting two bookings - daft, all things considered, as it wasn't a tackle that he needed to make.
And from the resulting free kick, George Honeyman tapped home a loose ball to give Sunderland a late consolation goal.
Whilst Sunderland were largely poor and didn't deserve anything from the game, the story of the night will undoubtedly be about Jan Kirchhoff's return and the fact that he was able to play just over an hour following such a lengthy spell on the sidelines - here's hoping he's ready for when we take on Burnley at the Stadium of Light in just under two weeks.
Max Stryjek - 7 (Man of the Match)
Despite the scoreline he was probably our best player. Made a large number of saves throughout the game to keep the away side at bay but unfortunately was let down repeatedly by his defence.
Donald Love - 5
Gave away a penalty in the first half and then received a booking in the second for booting away the ball in frustration at not getting a decision. It was a night to forget for him against his old side.
George Brady - 5
Was largely poor; was unlucky to have been involved in the United second when the ball deflected off him and in to the path of the goalscorer McTominay.
Sam Brotherton - 6
Was the better of the two central defenders but it wasn't a great night for our back line in truth.
Denver Hume - 6
Got forward well when he could and his tackling was fairly impressive.
Jan Kirchhoff - 6
Strolled through the first half without really breaking into a sweat. Only played twenty minutes of the second period before being taken off for Elliot Embleton, but was a little more active and should have scored. Encouraging that he was able to get through the game relatively unscathed.
Ethan Robson - 5
Quiet. Was far more comfortable when he had Kirchhoff alongside him but didn't really do anything of note as United eased their way to victory.
George Honeyman - 6
Spurned an absolutely brilliant chance - possibly even Sunderland's best of the game - at the beginning of the second half following some brilliant work from Joel Asoro. Scored right at the end, which is a small consolation I suppose.
Lynden Gooch - 6
Was industrious and worked hard, but had a great chance in the first half to get his side a goal but instead struck the outside of the post. Played a lovely ball to Asoro in behind the United defence in the lead up to the penalty shout. Also completed a full game, which is hugely important considering he's barely had a kick for the first team recently.
Rees Greenwood - 5
Struggled - Manchester United's right back kept him quiet for much of the game.
Josh Maja - 5
His touch was poor and he struggled to make an impact on the game, but he'll have better days. Was replaced by Joel Asoro at half time.
Joel Asoro (Sub, for Maja) - 7
Caused plenty of problems in the second half for United - should have ended the match with at least a goal and an assist, and was unlucky not to have won his side a penalty.
Elliot Embleton (Sub, for Kirchhoff) - 5
Luke Molyneux (Sub, for Greenwood) - 5
Wasn't really on long enough to make a meaningful impact.