United debutant Rossi sparkles against luckless Black Cats

MANCHESTER UNITED’S travelling army got a glimpse of the future at the Stadium of Light but they left just as grateful for the experience of Edwin van der Sar.

Not since Paul Scholes was firing them in from all angles well over a decade ago have the Red Devils boasted as lethal a predator as Guiseppe Rossi among their youth ranks.

The 18-year-old American-born Italian, signed from Parma in July 2004, was the inspiration behind United’s unprecedented four-trophy reserve team campaign last term.

Rossi has maintained that form this season, prompting Alex Ferguson to push him towards the senior ranks despite the stiff competition provided by Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and the rest of Old Trafford’s lethal attacking options.

It took just 12 minutes of Rossi’s Premiership debut at the Stadium of Light to turn the promise into reality as the diminutive forward scored the goal which sealed United’s fourth away win of the season.

The goal prompted a modern-day version of “all pile on” as Rossi was submerged by delighted team-mates.

The only man not involved was the one he had replaced but Van Nistelrooy, who Rossi regards as his mentor, could not have been more delighted.

“I am so happy for Guiseppe,” he said. “He has impressed all of us with his performances for the reserves and in training.

“He asks me things and I try to help him because he wants to know and he wants to learn. He deserves the goal for all the hard work he has put in.”

Ferguson has promised Rossi will be a regular member of his first-team squad, although he will probably have to wait until the Carling Cup encounter with Barnet. With two home games in a week - Lille tomorrow night followed by high-flying Tottenham on Saturday - Ferguson has little opportunity for experimentation.

Having reverted back to the 4-4-2 formation, Ferguson has been rewarded with successive three-goal hauls.

Van Nistelrooy has responded to the extra help by marching into double figures, while Wayne Rooney, suspended from the Champions League tie, looks unstoppable at present.

The brilliant 19-year-old scored his fifth of the campaign when he finished off a four-man break to put United in front, then supplied the killer passes for Van Nistelrooy and Rossi to ensure Irish international Stephen Elliott’s effort turned out to be nothing more than a consolation for the hosts.

Rooney’s impact was matched only by Van der Sar, whose influence on United is growing by the game.

Virtually every week, the giant Dutchman is adding to his collection of stupendous saves, most coming at crucial times.

Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy could scarcely believe the clawing effort which saw Van der Sar push Gary Breen’s powerful header on to the post when the game was still deadlocked and it is doubtful United would have won had he not plunged to his right to keep out an Anthony Le Tallec free-kick that seemed set to bring the hosts level.

Ferguson confirmed Ryan Giggs, who missed the trip with a slight hamstring strain, should be available for the Lille encounter.

Opta Fact: Ruud van Nistelrooy has scored in nine out of his last 10 Premiership outings.

Opta Fact: Sunderland have picked up one point in their last nine Premiership games against Man United.

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