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After our 5-0 humiliation on Merseyside on Boxing Day, there was no doubt that Peter Reid had given the Lads the ‘hairdryer treatment’ in the build up to this game with Manchester United at the Stadium of Light.
Reid’s men started like a steam train in the first twenty minutes, with United shellshocked, despite both Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane admitting post-match that they were expecting a quick start from the home side.
It only took us a couple of seconds to take the lead after a long ball into the United box found Niall Quinn, who put Gavin McCann through. After controlling the Irishman’s header with his chest, McCann guided the ball home with a poked finish, beating Mark Bosnich to give us the lead.
With Kevin Phillips injured, it was necessary for Quinn to play a major role and a few minutes later, he won an aerial duel with Irish counterpart Denis Irwin from a Kevin Kilbane cross and laid a great chance on a plate, only for Paul Butler to sky his effort well over the bar.
We were on top during these early moments and Quinn would get his own name on the scoresheet with a bizarre finish.
Recent arrival Kilbane crossed a lovely ball into the box for the big Irishman and he got his foot to the ball first, guiding it into the air and over the hapless Bosnich into the net.
Quinn looked slightly bewildered at finishing in such a way, but the goal was crucial given the impending United onslaught.
The fightback was unsurprisingly led by Keane, who pulled a goal back midway through the first half.
After some beautiful one-touch football from David Beckham and Dwight Yorke, Keane was played through and into the Sunderland box, where he struck a low finish across Thomas Sorensen and into the home goal.
United dominated proceedings from here on in, as we attempted to get some chances on the break. Minutes after the equaliser, Yorke missed an opportunity from a similar angle to Keane, while the ever-dangerous crossing from Beckham led to some last ditch-defending from Steve Bould.
The second half was tense for the home side with United dominating, and Ryan Giggs had the best opportunity when his dancing feet almost took him past the entire Sunderland backline before his shot was blazed over.
In typical United fashion, they never gave up and kept plugging away until their relentlessness eventually paid off with an equaliser from Nicky Butt.
After a questionable foul was given in the favour of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Gary Neville’s cross caused mayhem in the Sunderland box.
Eventually, the ball landed at the feet of Butt at the edge of the box, from where he took a shot that trickled past Sorensen for 2-2.
Despite Ferguson stating that he believed his team deserved a win, a draw was probably a fair result in the end for both sides.
We were likely to be disappointed at dropping two points after such an impressive first half effort, but Manchester United’s ‘never say die’ attitude came in handy for them once again.
Tuesday 28 December 1999
FA Carling Premiership
Stadium of Light
Sunderland 2 (McCann 2’, Quinn 13’)
Manchester United 2 (Keane 27’, Butt 86’)
Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Butler; Bould, Gray, Summerbee; Rae (Williams 61’), McCann, Schwarz; Kilbane (Reddy 61’), Quinn
Subs Not Used: Marriott, Oster, Roy
Manchester Utd: Bosnich, G. Neville, Stam; Silvestre, Irwin (Sheringham 76’), Beckham (Solskjaer 83’); Butt, Keane, Giggs; Yorke, Cole (P. Neville 89’)
Subs Not Used: Van der Gouw, Berg
Referee: J. Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)