MANCHESTER, England : Sunderland took a huge step toward staying in the Premier League by handing Ryan Giggs the first defeat of his reign as interim Manchester United manager on Saturday.
Sebastian Larsson took advantage of some slack marking to fire home Connor Wickham's cross in the 30th minute as Sunderland recorded its first win at Old Trafford since 1968.
Fabio Borini and Emanuele Giaccherini both struck the woodwork in the second half and Gus Poyet's team looked comfortable in possession all afternoon.
United was flat in midfield, Javier Hernandez went missing up front, and even the return of Robin van Persie from the bench could not inspire the Red Devils to victory.
Many United fans want Giggs to be the club's next manager but this result is likely to reinforce the wisdom of the board's apparent decision to turn to the more experienced Louis van Gaal, who is set to be appointed as David Moyes' successor next week.
United's defeat also highlighted the need for reinforcements this summer, particularly in midfield, where Nani, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick failed to impress.
It was all smiles for the home fans just before kickoff when Giggs received another huge welcome as he strolled down the touchline to his seat in the dugout. But just as they did in last week's 4-0 win over Norwich, United started very slowly.
Ashley Young, one of five changes to a starting eleven that did not contain the injured Wayne Rooney, dazzled Marcos Alonso with his skill, but his final ball was poor.
The only time United came close to scoring in the opening 15 minutes was when John O'Shea nearly turned the ball into his own net from Carrick's cross.
Another United old boy -- Wes Brown -- then put a crucial block in to deny Nani, who then picked himself up before curling over from 20 yards. Patrice Evra bundled his way through the crowd, but his weak header was easily collected by Vito Mannone.
Sunderland went ahead when Fletcher inexplicably allowed Wickham to send over a cross which Larsson expertly finished after giving Carrick the slip.
United was just as flat and unimaginative until the break, with Juan Mata the only man to test Mannone courtesy of a low drive.
Soon after the restart the United fans started voicing their frustration as the home team passed the ball across midfield without, seemingly devoid of any idea how to pierce the Sunderland back four.
Giggs replaced Nani with Adnan Januzaj, who scored two goals in the reverse fixture.
Then Van Persie entered, along with Danny Welbeck, for his first game in more than six weeks.
Tottenham's defeat against West Ham earlier Saturday had opened the door for United to claim the sixth spot and a Europa League place. The loss means United still trails Tottenham by six points while Sunderland climbs out of the relegation zone.