If there is such a thing as a 2-1 massacre this was it.
United dominated to such an extent that you wondered on occasions if Sunderland were going to get out of their own half.
While the Reds registered 32 attempts on goal, Sunderland managed only three - yet Howard Wilkinson's side came within ten minutes of winning! Sunderland are not called the Black Cats for nothing - they more than used up their nine lives, yet led courtesy of an own goal for 77 minutes of the match.
The visitors scored after only four minutes when keeper Fabien Barthez could only parry Paul Thirlwell's free-kick from the right.
After the ball landed to Gavin McCann on the edge of the box, his attempted shot was deflected goalwards off Roy Keane and then looped off Juan Sebastian Veron's head beyond Rio Ferdinand on the goal-line.
Sunderland's goal signalled a United onslaught that started with Paul Scholes unluckily watching his shot hit both posts before being hacked clear.
Jurgen Macho produced a series of great saves to deny Diego Forlan, Ole Gunner Solskjaer, Veron and Ferdinand, but the visitors hung on to their lead at the interval.
Macho continued where he left off at the start of the second half with Solskjaer and Veron both denied by his brilliance.
But, as so many teams have found to their cost, United never give in and that proved to be the case again when the home side drew level thanks to the inspirational David Beckham nine minutes from time.
Ferdinand's hopeful punt form midway inside his own half saw four United players spring clear of Sunderland's offside trap.
Beckham was the one to collect the ball to the right of the box and, as Macho raced off his line, the England captain stabbed the ball right-footed past him and into the corner of the net from 12 yards.
Macho then foiled Forlan soon after but the home side sent the massive Old Trafford following home happy by scoring a deserved winner a minute into injury-time.
Wes Brown's cross from the right was met by Forlan ten yards out.
The ball flashed across the box to Mikael Silvestre on the left of the area and his cross back into the centre was headed home by Scholes, who leapt above Macho to score from four yards.