Ferguson is up and out the dug-out to shake hands with counterpart O'Neill, United's six-point lead at the top restored.
Sessegnon, again, looking to lead from the front with a surge down the left, but the final ball lack the required finesse to make this a dramatic finish.
Young's teasing ball into the box beats Rooney, but almost finds an unmarked Valencia at the far post with an open goal agonisingly gone a-begging.
As the official on the touchline signals three minutes of added time, Untied continue to press forward in the hope of putting away O'Neill's charges at the death.
The Red Devils break out down the left flank with Young leading the charge, but the England flyer is bundled over and poached of the ball before getting off a pass to a waiting Rooney.
Evra gives away an attacking free-kick after rash challenge, but the Black Cats fail to really capitalise from out on the right touchline into the box.
McFadden's ball across the face of goal beats every one, including his own players with an open goal at their mercy.
Van Persie, again, soars inside the area to make a headed attempt on goal but his effort is wide of the mark.
James McFadden make his appearance with Colback going the other way to the bench.
Valencia gets a bit of a talking to for a late challenge on Jack Colback.
The Red Devils trying to kill off the game on the counter, Giggs eventually taking aim form range but the Welshman's attempt is wide of the mark.
Wickham, again, with a shot on goal that this time test De Gea. the Spaniard making a fine stop with his legs from close-range.
United's latest counter-attack sees Valencia burst down the right only for the cover defence to close him down.
The Black Cats manage to hold off United and launch an attack of their own, culminating Gardner's attempt from the left that doesn't worry De Gea too much.
Van Persie coolly tees up an onrushing Scholes inside the are off a one-two, but ginger-haired attacker is cut down before getting a shot off.
Bramble does well to get across the back and cut off Rooney's breakout down the right.
The Red Devils doing what they can to contain this late fightback from the visitors.
United withstand another Sunderland barrage, this time it's Bramble popping up the 18-yard area to cause some problems.
Jones, again, being called into action as the United defender throws his legs at Campbell's effort on goal form the right of the area.
Jones manages to hold Sessegnon as the Cats man continues to make a nuisance of himself at the late stage of this match.
Ferguson clearly opting for experience to close out this match as Ryan Giggs take to the field in place of Cleverley.
Former United youth player Campbell heads past De Gea at the far post off a good cross from Sessegnon.
Sessegnon, again, this time with decent chance on goal from out in front.
Sessegnon looks to round Evra on the left, but the veteran full-back manages to shepherd the Cts wideman out of bounds.
Play bogged down in the middle of the park, but all eyes are still trained on Vidic in an effort to see how the centre-back fares after some time on the casualty list.
The home fans rise as one as Vidic comes on for Ferdinand, while Johnson is replaced with Frazier Campbell.
Vidic is stripping down as the crowd continues to build up to fever pitch in anticipation of the Serbian's arrival.
The visitors on the ball but United are closing them down early and not giving them any real room to construct a decent attacking movement.
Gardner with a desperate shot from distance that soars well over the crossbar.
All the action taking place inside the Black Cats' half, who continue to make an effort to break out and make their mark on the scorecard.
Young finds Van Persie at the far post with a great deep cross, but the Dutchman slips and can't feed Rooney unmarked inside the area.
The home fans raise their voices in unison as Nemanja Vidic warms up on the sidelines.
United stand their ground at the back as the Black Cats look to make something happen from a corner-kick form the right.
Valencia and Jones try to combine to make it four, but Mignolet is alert and plucks the ball out of the air intended for the roving defender.
Rooney finally gets on the scoresheet as he manages to squeeze his boot between the defenders inside the box and convert Van Persie's neat cut-back into the area.
Mix up between Rio Ferdinad and Smalling over who is to pick up Wickham allows the replacement striker to fancy another pot at goal.
The Wearsiders working the ball around a bit more confidently and freely, although the defence splitting ball instead coming no matter what they try.
Wickham with a shot from range that fails really trouble De Gea at his near post.
United on the a bit of the back foot as the visitors press forward, Wickham leading the charge in particular.
The Black Cats with a bit more of the ball but just can't turn it in to any real attacking chances.
Carlos Cuellar with a good run from the right, but is undecided inside the area which allow Smalling to close him down and clear the ball.
Gardner is blown up for a late challenge on Young; studs up but he gets away with just a caution.
The visitors camped inside their own as the home side weigh them down.
The Red Devils continue to press as the Black Cats track back in numbers.
Van Persie tries an delectable finish, a chip-over with Mignolet to beat, but the ball drifts over the bar.
De Gea with a double save, first off Craig Gardner and then James McLean.
Bramble gets just enough on it to deny Rooney at the near post, with Young unable to convert from the rebound, as United pick up where they left in the first half.
An early change with Connor Wickham coming on for Fletcher, who has been announced to have been replaced due to a back injury. Carrick has also been replaced, Paul Scholes his replacement.
The second half is underway!
Will Manchester United heap further misery on their visitors after the break? Van Persie is the 3/1 favourite to score next followed by Wayne Rooney (7/2) and Ashley Young (7), while Sunderland are 33/1 to salvage a draw and 100/1 to win.
I'm a mighty red devils fan and after watching the first twenty miniutes i think this game has the potential to be the highest scoring match of the season 6-1 win for united RVP brace Rooney brace Cleverly and young the goal scorers. COME ON UNITED! Ryan Borthwick
Utd need to keep the wins coming. A six point gap would be nice to still have after today. 3-1 utd. David Beattie
Stephane Sessegnon tries an ambitious shot from out on the right that sails past De Gea at the near post.
Play resumes after treatment for Fletcher, who has since moved off to the sidelines for further medical assessment.
Things look like they could take an even worse turn for O'Neill's side as Fletcher goes down in midfield looking to be troubled by maybe the ankle injury that has sidelined him to past couple of weeks.
The stadium has gone quiet as the match enters a bit of a lull before the half-time break.
The Black Cats left chasing at shadows as United pass the ball around with ease, inching forward with every movement at the same time.
Evra makes a headed attempt on goal off Van Persie's corner-kick from the right, but Bramble is up to the task of clearing the Frenchman's effort.
The Red Devils back on the front foot as they carry the ball into their opposition's half with purpose and verve.
Cleverley's shot on goal flies over the crossbar as he wraps his foot too much around the ball.
United under a bit of pressure at the moment as Evra does well to head away Johnson's attempt from the right after a passage of sustained attack form the Wearsiders.
The Black Cats clear the latest set-piece delivery for Untied and look to launch an attacking riposte of their own as they take the ball up field at pace.
Carrick burst into the box to meet Valencia's ball form the right, only for Bramble's outstretched boot to deflect the midfielder's shot on goal out for a corner.
Rooney skips away from Titus Bramble before laying the ball off for Van Persie, but once again the prolific hitman is swamped by defenders and has to track back.
Another attacking surge from United with Van Persie at the forefront, but the last line of defence stands their ground and intercepts a pass meant for the Dutch ace.
Jones climbs highest for United at the far post but the defender's effort is in the end of no real threat to Mignolet.
The Black Cats struggling to hold the Red Devils back as they give away another corner-kick.
United dominating possession as they continue to look to Valencia out on the left flank to ignite their attacking thrust.
Valencia looking to breakaway down the right, but the cover defence is alert to his threat and steers out of bounds before he can gather a pass forward.
The Red Devils managing to calm matters down and rebuild their composure from the back, before launching their attackers down the flanks.
United try to catch the visitors on the counter through Valencia, whose long ball forward almost finds Van Persie free on goal.
De Gea does well to clear the ball from corner-kick out on the right, although his slap clearance didn't look all that convincing.
The Black Cats suddenly seeing a bit more of possession as they work the ball up field in the hope of pulling a goal back.
Sebastian Larsson gets past Jones out on the right and makes a bee-line for David De Gea, but the Spanish shot-stopper is well placed to make the save.
O'Neill is up on his feet and screaming at his players from the touchlines, but one must think there's not much they can do at this stage as they struggle to see more of the ball.
Another decent chance for Rooney as he heads the ball wide of the near post after a great cross from Evra out on the left.
Rooney could've easily made it three after Van Persie's unselfish header back into the path of his striker partner, whose volley flies wide of the left post.
Two-nil up and the 19-time English champions are looking in a dangerous mood today; hard luck for the Black Cats.
Super finish from Tom Cleverley as the midfielder slots the ball past a hapless Mignolet from the left of the box.
Mignolet with a great left-hand diving save to deny Van Persie's pin-point header off Valencia cross from the right.
With the one-goal advantage, Untied really look the part as they settle into their stride.
Van Persie taps in from close-range after a great ball from the left into the box from Young, although John O'Shea should've done better to mark the striker.
United hammer the ball up field for Young to chase with the winger looking hungry to get on the end of it.
The Wearsiders doing all they can to keep the league leaders at bay as Ferguson's men keep on pressing.
United fans breath a sigh of relief as Jones raises to his feet after favouring his ankle following a challenge.
Van Persie with an decent run from the left as he tries to cut the ball the back from alongside goal, but the defence manages to clear the ball.
The Red Devils clearly with the early ascendency as they once again garner possession and look launch another attacking surge.
United get their third corner-kick with Rooney whipping in a good ball to find Patrice Evra free and with a shot at goal from out in front, only for the left-back to blaze his effort over the bar.
The Blacks Cats force the Red Devils back into their own as Michael Carrick is forced to hack a no-hope long up field for Valencia.
The visitors do well to repel United's latest foray, but the hosts just seem happy to regroup and start over.
Mignolet comes to gather Wayne Rooney's second corner-kick, after his earlier delivery found Young out on the right of the box with the winger's shot having drawn a finger-tip save off the Cats gloveman.
Valencia feeds Robin van Persie inside the box, but the Dutchman is heavily marked and can't get a shot off. Ashley Young, however, can, but his effort is blocked for a corner-kick.
Steven Fletcher making a good early run toward the box for the visitors, but Chris Smalling is on point to clear any possible danger.
The Red Devils seeing plenty of early ball and are happy to spread it from side to side, although Valencia looks like he is full of running.
Antonio Valencia whips in a decent ball from the right for Phil Jones to try and get on the end of, but Simon Mignolet covers well.
With City having won 3-1 at Newcastle earlier, United will be more than ever determined to bag a three-point result today.
The match is underway!
A comfortable 4-1win for the Red Devils Van Persie Hatrick Rooney to get on the scoreshoot also Fletcher to get on the scoresheet for Sunderland. Usman Javeed
Sunderland to break 44 drought 2-1 Sunderland, Rooney sent off. Alan Robinson
Predicting a big win for the manchester red, 4-1, sunderlands fletcher scoring first then united turn it on with RVP double, rooney and chicarito off the bench, come on united! David Loverock
Sunderland fan here. So Rooney is on a revenge mission because of the Sunderland poznan last season? Without Rose and with Bramble, I can actually see him and RVP getting a load of goals. We may have turned a corner, but we're only going to hit a tree on the way round. Hate to be Mr. Optimistic but it's going to be a big defeat for the red and white army. Liam Moran
I think united will win 4-0 with 2 for Van Persie, Rooney and Young getting 1 each. Nigel Healy
Man United will be all fired up and full of confidence today after beating our now not so noisy neighbours last week and i predict a comfortable night for us reds 5-1 united. VAN PERSIE hat trick ROONEY and JONES with our goals. Sessengon grabbing the mackems. Come on you reds. Jamie Warrior
Feel free to e-mail your thoughts or predictions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll publish as many of them before - and during - the game as possible.
Steven Fletcher is once again fit to lead the attack for the visitors. Adam Johnson has also passed a late fitness test and will start for the Black Cats, but Danny Rose has failed his assessment and misses out entirely.
Nemanja Vidic could return to action in the Premier League after a lengthy injury lay-off, the United defender taking up a spot on the bench. Jonny Evans, however, has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
Sunderland are rated at 14/1 to beat Man United today according to our friends at Sky Bet, while it is 5/1 for the match to end in a draw. Van Persie is 5/2 to score first and 10/1 to secure a hat-trick, with Wayne Rooney 3/1 to score the last goal of the match.
Meanwhile, Martin O'Neill's Black Cats recorded a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over Reading at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening. The midweek win ended a run of four matches without a win for the Wearsiders and left them 15th in the standings.
United will look to maintain their lead at the top of the table, especially after having extended their advantage over Manchester City in last weekend's derby clash in Eastlands. A last-gasp Robin van Persie free-kick earned the Red Devils a 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium, and Sir Alex Ferguson has reiterated his desire to see his side not allow City to pull level at the summit.
Good afternoon, I'm Devin Hermanus and I'll be taking you through all the action as Manchester United host Sunderland at Old Trafford. Kick-off is scheduled for 1500 BST.