Martial showed he can make goals as well as score them by setting up Rooney for the “knee in” that ended his 1,000 minutes without a Premier League strike.
Although he didn’t score himself, it was arguably the best all-round performance so far from the French new boy as United leapfrogged neighbours Manchester City into pole position for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson left them with the championship in May 2013.
Louis van Gaal’s prediction that Martial’s arrival would help Rooney proved spot on with the United captain enjoying the time, space and greater involvement afforded by playing in a deeper No 10 role.
“Anthony will be a big player for us throughout the season and in the future,” said Rooney, “but we need to let him enjoy his football and I’m sure he’ll bring magic moments for us.
“He’s a young lad, we have to remember that. He’s a 19-year-old who doesn’t speak English and has moved over to England from France with a young family, so we have to understand that. But the start he’s had has been incredible.”
Rooney is too experienced to be as bullish about United’s title hopes. He knows they are still a work in progress and the games against Arsenal, Everton and City in October will provide a more accurate indication of their credentials.
“It’s nice to be at the top,” he added, “that’s what we are all playing for. But it is still early days, there is a long way to go and we need to keep progressing and improving to make sure we stay there and more importantly finish there at the end of the season
“We’re playing some good stuff and creating some good chances. You can see the smiles on the lads’ faces so we’re enjoying it. Hopefully the form continues and we carry on picking up points.”
United’s final ball was poor in the first half until Daley Blind’s superb diagonal pass allowed Juan Mata to set up Memphis Depay for a tap-in that wrecked Sunderland’s defensive plan in added time.
Seconds after the break it was game over when Martial set up Rooney. He also unselfishly teed up Memphis who squandered the chance and it was left to Mata’s late goal from Ashley Young’s cross to provide a better reflection of United’s superiroity and pile up the problems for Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat who must be regretting staying on after his rescue act last season.
Advocaat admits his new signings have made little impact, dressing room morale is low and he will have to have a tactical re-think ahead of the visit of away-day specialists West Ham on Saturday.
After hauling off Adam Johnson at half-time for conceding possession to often, he said: “We definitely have to look at a change of formation. Do we go on with 4-3-3 or do we have to find another solution. Do we have to play more tight?
“The next seven games are important, they against teams in the same situation as us, but we can’t keep talking about tomorrow, tomorrow, we have to do it today.”