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Man Utd pummel Sunderland in merciless win

Keane's reunion with former club brings the Irishman nothing short of brutal defeat

Manchester United's Louis Saga, center, scores against Sunderland during their English Premier League soccer match at The Stadium of Light in Sunderla...
Aston Villa's Martin Laursen, center, scores against Chelsea during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London, England on...

Manchester United's Louis Saga, center, scores against Sunderland during their English Premier League soccer match at The Stadium of Light in Sunderla...

Aston Villa's Martin Laursen, center, scores against Chelsea during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London, England on...

Roy Keane, the former Manchester United midfielder, has learnt a series of painful lessons in his first season as a Premier League manager, but none could have hurt quite so much as that he was forced to endure at the hands of his one-time employers.
After 12 years patrolling the Old Trafford beat, the Irishman will always be guaranteed cult status among those who support the biggest club in the world but such outstanding service merited no more than a rousing reception from the traveling hordes on Wednesday.
On the field the reunion was merciless as Manchester United eased to a 4-0 victory and brutally exposed the gulf in class between the top flight's haves and have-nots.
Sir Alex Ferguson later conceded Sunderland were suffering their 'stickiest patch of the season so far' but the Scot will lose little sleep over the fact that his slick side made things even more uncomfortable for Keane. The discomfort will only intensify should the Wearside club fail to win against Bolton Wanderers at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
"We're in a sticky patch," admitted Keane, echoing his former mentor's assessment of a club in decline. "We're in a massive fight. That was a harsh lesson. But if you're going to get beaten 4-0 at home then why not to a very good team?
"My old club will win the league. I said it earlier this season and I've seen nothing to change my mind. Manchester United were missing players but they still flexed their muscles. We could say they took their foot off the gas after half-time but the game was already lost by then."
A neat exchange of passes between the full back, Wes Brown, and Cristiano Ronaldo allowed Wayne Rooney to open the floodgates.
Ten minutes later Keane's task became almost impossible as Rooney turned provider to double the visitors' lead. His pinpoint cross landed at the feet of Louis 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 Dwight Yorke fouled Darren Fletcher 22 yards from goal, and poor Keane appeared utterly perplexed.
Unsurprisingly United eased off after the break with Ronaldo making way for the South Korean Park Ji-Sung, who made his first appearance since suffering a serious knee injury in March, and 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.
"Ronaldo's free kick was the killer," added Keane. "We might have felt we had a chance at 2-0 down but you don't come back to beat Man Utd 4-3. The fact is that they clearly have some quality players and there's no other way of dressing that up.
"After watching that display my money is still on Manchester United winning the title. They're a great attacking team and they have two decent center halves too. That's what you need to win leagues."
As for Ferguson, he can look forward to a title battle in which he believes the form of Wayne Rooney may be critical.
Grant vows to keep fighting
Avram Grant vowed he would never concede defeat in the English Premier League title race, despite his Chelsea side losing ground on front-runners Arsenal and Manchester United.
The third-placed Blues face a tough fight to keep themselves in the contest going into the New Year and their injury and suspension problems are mounting, leaving Grant without key players.
Chelsea drew 4-4 at home to Aston Villa on Wednesday, coming back from 2-0 down to take a 4-3 lead with two minutes to go, before having defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole sent off - both of whom will be suspended for three matches.
On Saturday, Chelsea host Newcastle - defeated 1-0 at lowly Wigan on Wednesday - before a west London derby at Fulham on Tuesday.
Grant is determined to emerge from the games with the maximum six points and keep up Chelsea's hopes bringing the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge after a one-year absence.
"As long as we have a chance we will do everything we can," Grant said. "We will not give up. Any difficulty for me is a challenge. We dropped the points so I'm not happy with this.We continue to fight for all the titles that we can take. It's not good to drop points but it's not the end of the world, even though we are very disappointed."
With impending suspensions for Carvalho and Cole, and midfielder Frank Lampard pulling up in the 4-4 draw with a thigh injury, Grant faces doing more patching up work on his team.
Grant said life was already tough enough without defender John Terry, striker Didier Drogba and winger Florent Malouda. "I want them back as soon as possible," he sighed. "This is the situation and we'll have to make the best of it."
He doubted England midfielder Lampard, on 99 club goals for Chelsea, would be fit for the rest of the festive period. "I don't think he will play in the next games but how bad it is we will have to wait and see," the former Israel coach said.
Aston Villa took a 2-0 lead thanks to two goals from Scotland striker Shaun Maloney.
Villa defender Zat Knight was dismissed for a foul in the penalty box. Chelsea's Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko scored the spot kick and equalized five minutes after the interval.
Blues center-half Alex scored and Villa's Martin Laursen equalized before a frantic final 10 minutes.
Carvalho's two-footed lunge earned a red card then team-mate Michael Ballack scored an 88th-minute free kick. Cole was sent off for a handball on the line and Villa captain Gareth Barry scored the injury time equalizer from the resulting penalty.
Villa boss Martin O'Neill said his side had to exert greater control after taking the lead in matches. "That's what we need to learn to be good at. The top four sides have that," he said. "To come back from 3-2 behind and twice coming back from the jaws of defeat - great effort," said the former Northern Ireland captain.