Alex Ferguson hailed boy wonder Federico Macheda after the 17-year-old’s late goal sent Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League table on Saturday.
The Italian, who scored his first senior goal for the club last weekend to see off Aston Villa at the death, did the trick once again to kill off Sunderland’s brave fightback at the Stadium of Light in a 2-1 win.
He was in the right place at the right time to deflect home Michael Carrick’s shot as it sped through a crowded penalty area and clinch three precious points.
The win took United back to the top of the table after Liverpool briefly unseated them earlier with a 4-0 win over Blackburn.
Ferguson said: “He has got something special about him, the boy. I haven’t seen the goal, but one of the players said he actually tried it.
“He side-footed it as it came to him. It’s that quick-thinking that goalscorers have got. He has just got that instinct.”
Macheda’s goal was needed after Kenwyne Jones had cancelled out Paul Scholes’ early header, and the result left Sunderland only two points above the drop zone.
United needed to win after watching Liverpool brush aside Blackburn at an emotional Anfield in the week of the Hillsborough disaster anniversary.
After a minute’s silence in memory of the 96 victims of that day 20 years ago, Fernando Torres lifted the mood within five minutes with a sublime opener, the Spaniard taking Jamie Carragher’s lofted ball down on his chest with his back to goal, turning as it bounced and looping it over Paul Robinson from the corner of the box.
Torres headed a second after 33 minutes from Xabi Alonso’s free-kick and Daniel Agger made it three with a swerving long-range effort in the 83rd minute before substitute David Ngog’s header put the gloss on the win in injury time.
The performance was enough to convince Rovers boss Sam Allardyce that Liverpool are very much still in the race.
He said: “They are certainly capable of winning the title, even if Manchester United have a game in hand.
“If Liverpool keep playing like that and continue with that pace and confidence, it is possible they can win it.”
Third-placed Chelsea kept in touch with a 4-3 win against Bolton, who staged a remarkable comeback at Stamford Bridge having been 4-0 down with 20 minutes to go.
Didier Drogba’s brace, plus goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard, had Chelsea cruising, but Bolton worried them with a stunning final 20 minutes when Andy O’Brien, Chris Basham and Matthew Taylor all scored.
Arsenal went nine points clear of Aston Villa in the final Champions League spot after coming from behind to win 4-1 win at Wigan.
Mido’s snapshot crept under Lukasz Fabianski in the 18th minute but But Arsene Wenger’s side stormed back after the break, Theo Walcott, Mikael Silvestre, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song all scoring to secure a comfortable victory.
At the other end of the table, Middlesbrough picked up a vital 3-1 win against Hull at the Riverside.
Although Tuncay Sanli’s earlier effort was cancelled out by Manucho, Matthew Bates and Marlon King snatched the goals that won it.
“I thought our work ethic was brilliant today,” said Boro boss Gareth Southgate.
“We have given ourselves hope now. We are still in there fighting and you just never know.”
However, Boro stay 19th after Newcastle rescued a point through Andy Carroll’s late equaliser at Stoke, who had led through Abdoulaye Faye’s 33rd-minute goal.
Portsmouth were frustrated in a 2-2 draw against rock-bottom West Brom, while Tottenham boosted their bid for Europe with a 1-0 win over West Ham.