LONDON, (Reuters) – Manchester United unearthed a sparkling gem to lighten the early-season gloom, Adnan Januzaj striking twice in a 2-1 win at Sunderland yesterday after resurgent Liverpool stormed to the top of the Premier League.
Liverpool fans were celebrating a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard scoring, and their day seemed about to get even better as arch-rivals United trailed at bottom club Sunderland in the day’s late kickoff.
The champions seemed to be heading to a third consecutive Premiership defeat for the first time in 12 years after Craig Gardner had given Sunderland a deserved first-half lead but 18-year-old Januzaj, given a first league start by David Moyes, spared their blushes.
He sidefooted a 55th-minute equaliser and six minutes later produced a sumptuous left-foot volley to seal three welcome points for a United side experiencing their worst start to a season since 1989.
Victory moved United up to ninth with 10 points from seven games, six behind Liverpool who seemed set for a goal avalanche against Palace after netting three times in the first half.
Manchester City bounced back from their midweek Bayern Munich mauling by beating Everton 3-1 to climb to third on 13 points.
French striker Loic Remy gave Newcastle United’s under-pressure manager Alan Pardew some relief by scoring twice in a 2-1 victory at Cardiff City.
Fulham did the same for manager Martin Jol, edging past Stoke City 1-0 with Darren Bent’s 83rd-minute winner, while Hull City drew 0-0 with Aston Villa.
Manager Moyes has been looking for some respite after consecutive league defeats by Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion and a none-too-convincing draw against Shakhtar Donetsk and he was rewarded for his decision to offer Januzaj a chance.
“I think a few players tonight should be worried about their positions,” former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel told Sky Sports. “We’ve seen something special.”
Januzaj, who has Kosovar-Albanian heritage but is wanted by Belgium, turned the game United’s way after a first half which again illustrated their early-season woes.
Nemanja Vidic got himself in a tangle to gift Gardner the chance to shoot Sunderland ahead and only a great save by David De Gea from a powerful Emanuele Giaccherini effort stopped them falling further behind by halftime.
Ten minutes after the interval Januzaj, who eclipsed Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney throughout, calmly fired in an equaliser with his right foot.
Six minutes later he locked his eyes on a superb Nani cross and unleashed a hip-high volley into the corner of the net, lifting a hefty weight off United in the process.
“He is a wonderful player, he is someone who we think a lot of. I have tried to get him in the team over the last few weeks but for various reasons it did not happen,” said Moyes.
“At the moment we scored, we needed it but I wasn’t getting too low. I thought it was exciting and I enjoyed it today.”
Liverpool lead Arsenal by a point and the Londoners can regain top spot today at West Brom.
Suarez put Liverpool in front on 13 minutes, receiving Jose Enrique’s cut-back and sliding home a finish despite lying on the turf after losing his balance.
It was his second goal in as many games in the wake of his suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last season.
Four minutes later Sturridge fired a shot across goal and past keeper Julian Speroni.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told the BBC: “(Suarez and Sturridge) were exceptional today. Their combination play was outstanding and they are right up there with the best in this league.”