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Saturday 08 March 2014

On this day in 1997: Sunderland stun Man Utd

Looking back at Premier League history, we recall when the leaders slipped to defeat at Sunderland

  • Goals from John Mullin (pictured) and Michael Gray gave Sunderland a shock win

  • Gray opened the scoring with his third goal of the season before Mullin put them 2-0 up

  • Sunderland's Dariusz Kubicki vies with Man Utd star David Beckham at Roker Park

  • Man Utd goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel shields his eyes on a sunny day at Roker Park rifles through the annals of the Barclays Premier League to find significant events.

8 March 1997: Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United

Michael Gray scored a rare goal as struggling Sunderland earned a surprise win over Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Gray and John Mullin struck in the second half and, although Black Cats defender Andy Melville put through his own net late on, the hosts held on to end a run of four straight defeats and earn their first win in seven league matches.

United came into the contest having beaten Porto 4-0 in the UEFA Champions League three days earlier and manager Alex Ferguson had said his players looked tired.

Sunderland’s strike duo of Mullin and Michael Bridges caused Ferguson’s reshuffled defence problems all match. The visitors were without the injured Gary Pallister so Ronnie Johnsen came into a three-man back line with the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil, playing as wing-backs.

Mullin set up the first goal for Gray in the 57th minute. The striker challenged Peter Schmeichel for Gareth Hall’s cross and forced the United goalkeeper into an error,  and Gray pounced to score his third goal of the season.

It was 2-0 in the 76th minute when Mullin raced clear and Schmeichel could not hold on to his shot. Two minutes later, Melville’s own goal gave Ferguson’s side late hope but they could not find an equaliser.

The victory took Sunderland up one place in the table to 15th but they could only win two of their remaining nine matches and were relegated by a point, a season after winning promotion.

By contrast, United lost onlyone of their closing nine matches and won the title by seven points from Arsenal.

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Key Points

  • looks back through the annals of history of the competition
  • A memorable event or match from each day of the year will be selected
  • We remember when Michael Gray scored as struggling Sunderland earned a stunning win against leaders Man Utd