Manchester United trounced Sunderland 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to maintain their six-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the English Premier League standings.

Alex Ferguson's club took the field knowing that their crosstown rival had won earlier in the day to move within three points, and that sense of urgency was apparent from the outset.

The Red Devils utterly dominated ball possession in the early going and that resulted in constant threats on Sunderland's goal.

United's pressure paid off in the 16th minute, when Sunderland defenseman John O'Shea failed to clear a cross from midfielder Ashley Young and Dutch striker Robin Van Persie took advantage and put the ball in the back of the net.

Just three minutes later, a series of quick passes set up a scoring opportunity for United midfielder Tom Cleverley, who curled a shot past Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet.

The home side seemed fully capable of blowing out Sunderland with a flurry of goals, but Ferguson, apparently satisfied with the lead, had his players slow down the pace and the score remained 2-0 at halftime.

The start of the second half saw United striker Wayne Rooney, who had been battling a cold earlier in the week, particularly inspired on attack.

In the 59th minute, he was finally rewarded for his efforts, tapping in an easy chance after receiving a pass from Van Persie, who had maneuvered past two Sunderland defensemen.

The play was yet another example of the effective teamwork between the two forwards, who form one of the most lethal one-two punches in English soccer.

The Red Devils relaxed after building their three-goal lead, so much so that 20 minutes before the final whistle Sunderland midfielder Stephane Sessegnon was allowed space to loft a cross over goalkeeper David De Gea to an unmarked Fraizer Campbell, who headed the ball in the back of the net.

With the win, United now has 42 points with a record of 14-0-3, while Sunderland sits in 16th place with a record of 3-7-7.

In other Premier League action Saturday, Manchester City defeated Newcastle United 3-1, Norwich City topped Wigan Athletic 2-1, Queens Park Rangers edged Fulham 2-1, Stoke City and Everton played to a 1-1 draw and Aston Villa stunned Liverpool 3-1. EFE