|Jaw dropping: Adnan Januzaj rescued Manchester United with two goals, his second a stunning volley|
The history books show that Manchester United last lost three consecutive Premier League games in December 2001, when a Belgian boy called Adnan Januzaj was six years old and presumably unaware of the club's troubles that winter.
For a large portion of this game, it was possible to believe that their 12-year hiatus was about to be broken just seven matches into the reign of David Moyes.
Sunderland, the side at the bottom of the table, without a win all season and guided by an interim manager, were threatening to pull off another shock for United following losses to Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion.
But then an 18-year-old Januzaj, making his full Premier League debut, came to the fore in a six-minute spell as Moyes was handed some respite. Informed judges at United have been saying for some time that Januzaj, born in Brussels, to Albanian parents, was the young player to watch this season. He had confirmed his promise in forays from the substitutes' bench but last night he arrived in some style.
When United laboured and searched for an answer to the problems created by Sunderland's first-half lead, it was not to Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie they turned. The most exalted names in world football took a step back for a player of whom little was known three months ago. It was to Januzaj that United owed a debt of gratitude as the callow teenager reasserted their wavering authority in this game.
You had to cast your mind back to a young Ronaldo at Old Trafford 10 years ago to think of a similar impact made by a United player on his full debut. Or, for those wishing to keep a more sober perspective, you might cite the vital winning goal scored by Federico Macheda on his debut in 2009. Macheda is currently on loan at Doncaster.
Still, yesterday was not a moment for such thoughts.
'It wasn't just his goals,' said Moyes. 'It was his passing, his movement. He's a very good player.' The manager quickly added he had played him in the reserves at Bolton last Monday to 'keep his feet on the ground'. But it was hard to stay restrained.
'I gave Wayne Rooney his debut at 16, Ross Barkley his debut at 16 and Adnan is certainly up there with all those boys. I would have started him four weeks ago but for different reasons I didn't quite get it the way I wanted. He's been that good.'