No mercy for Keane as United turn the heat on Arsenal

Manchester United went top of the Premier League after a 4-0 romp at Sunderland on Wednesday with Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points.

updated: December 29, 2007 14:06 IST
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Roy Keane's rookie season as a Premier League manager took another painful turn for the worse as his former club, Manchester United, eased to a comfortable 4-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.

A double for Louis Saha and a goal apiece from Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo left Sunderland mired in the relegation zone while champions United moved above Arsenal at the top of the table, at least for a few hours.

Old Trafford was Keane's beloved home for 12 trophy-laden years but the Sunderland manager could expect no favours from his former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Scot showed his one time protege a degree of mercy by naming the Argentinian forward, Carlos Tevez, on the bench alongside the in-form French full back, Patrice Evra.

This being a fixture the footballing world would expect Manchester United to win, Keane could afford to gamble with his team selection but handing a Premier League debut to 17-year-old unknown Martyn Waghorn was brave even by the confident Irishman's standards.

Prolific for Sunderland's reserve team, and with an FA Youth Cup hat-trick under his belt earlier this month, the teenager has been forging quite a reputation on Wearside.

Once with United as a child, Waghorn was given the kind of late Christmas present most young hopefuls could only dream of.

Yet the South Shields-born forward was a spectator as Ronaldo created and almost converted the first chance of a fast-paced opening period.

Fouled by the Sunderland and former Manchester United defender Danny Higginbotham, the Portuguese midfielder stepped up to take the free kick 20 yards from goal and his swerving shot was beaten away by the Scotland goalkeeper, Craig Gordon.

Waghorn may admire Ronaldo but on his homepage on Sunderland's official website it is Rooney he names as his favourite current player.

In the 20th minute it was abundantly clear why every emerging English forward wants to follow in the England international's footsteps as United's talismanic striker broke the deadlock in fine style.

A neat exchange of passes between the full back, Wes Brown, and Ronaldo culminated in Rooney being given the opportunity to race clear on goal. Gordon was powerless to prevent a measured finish inside his left post and Keane suddenly faced another stiff test of his managerial talent.

Ten minutes later the Sunderland manager's task became almost impossible as Rooney turned provider to double the visitors' lead.

His pinpoint cross landed at the feet of Saha and the France international could not have asked for an easier opportunity.

It was Ronaldo who capped a mesmerizing half with a trademark free kick in the 45th minute, after former United star Dwight Yorke fouled Darren Fletcher 22 yards from goal.

Unsurprisingly United eased off after the break with Ronaldo making way for the South Korean Park Ji-Sung and the Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic stepping aside for the Spanish under-21 international Gerard Pique.

Rooney spurned a glorious chance to extend the visitors' advantage when he fired Nani's 76th minute cross over the bar.

But there was still time for Saha to score his second goal of the game, the French striker stroking home a penalty four minutes from time after Danny Collins had brought down Nani.