Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the fulcrum of United's attack and his rise is down not just to his hard work but also Jose Mourinho's instinct.
Banished into obscurity after an inauspicious Manchester derby debut in September, it was only 33 days ago since Mkhitaryan started in that defining fixture at home to Feyenoord.
Since then, he has since collected four man of the match awards, assisted two goals, scored three - two of them winners - and is destined to collect the Goal of the Month - or possibly even the Goal of the Season - award.
At Hull in August, Mkhitaryan underlined his ability as an impact substitute in a game-changing supporting role and his effect was more profound against a spirited Sunderland side.
He started on the left, switched to the right and scored from a central position.
Few players on the planet are as adept as operating across a front three as Mkhitaryan and United might not have had a player of such versatility and pedigree since Cristiano Ronaldo.
The variety of Mikki Ryan's recent strikes epitomises his skills set: elegance at Zorya, poise against Spurs and innovation on Boxing Day.
He arrived back into the fray after 62 minutes as Jose reaffirmed that his £26.3 million summer signing is now an undisputed first-team regular.
Credit to Mourinho for handling his best creative player the way he knows best and not being bothered by the criticism that came his way for doing so.
After an inauspicious showing on his first United start in the derby back in September, Mkhitaryan was removed from the limelight and did not appear again for six weeks.
An injury suffered on international duty stalled his progress and the player later admitted that he initially struggled to adapt to life at the top level in England.
It is testament to both the player and his manager that he regained his fluidity and rhythm so swiftly, just 15 days after he suffered that ankle injury against Spurs.
He didn't train with the team on Wednesday which explained Jose's decision to ease him back in off the bench.
Mkhitaryan's pace and creativity nipped Sunderland's growing momentum in the bud and, even before his stunning match-sealing strike, he oozed class and picked up where he had left off before his two-match lay off.
Mourinho's side are showing real progress with our best run of the season and Mkhitaryan's magic is at the heart of everything.
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