Wayne Rooney netted the only goal of the Stadium of Light, but Manchester United's win didn't matter because of Manchester City's late exploits.
At the full-time whistle United thought they had done enough to retain the title, but news then filtered through that City had finished with a flourish to defeat QPR.
Alex Ferguson admitted that the dramatic nature of City's success caught everybody by surprise.
"Nobody expected that. Everybody expected City to win, but they did it against 10 men for half an hour and with five extra minutes to help them.
"But I congratulate City on winning the league. Anybody who wins it deserves it, because it's a long haul. At the end of our game our players didn't actually know the results. Now, they're really disappointed, I'm glad to say.
"There's no other way they should be. They conducted themselves brilliantly.
'Their performance level was good. I'm pleased at our performance this season. Eighty-nine points would win most leagues. It wasn't our turn.
“It was a cruel way but we’ve experienced many ups and downs in the 25 years that I’ve been here and most of them have been great moments. We have won the league three times in the last five seasons and we nearly did it again today.
“All we had to do, I said it before the game to the lads, was concentrate on our job because you are going to get certain types of reaction from the fans - you saw that from our fans and from Sunderland’s when City scored a third goal. You just have to put that to one side and concentrate on your own game, which I think we did pretty well.
“We take great credit from the fact that we have had so many injuries this season and we’ve coped with that very well. They are only young players, it was excellent for them.
“They’ve experienced what has happened and they’ll be around in five, six, seven or ten years time for Manchester United. The experience is good for them, even if it is a bad one.”
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill is worried that John O'Shea may miss out on Euro 2012 after picking up a calf injury.
"John didn't feel comfortable. He has come back and he was starting to feel his injury, so he just didn't feel confident at all about moving on it.
"As he came off, that was my thought, that there might be a concern about missing the European Championships.
"I haven't had a chance to check with the physios since that. Maybe I am jumping the gun, but it might be a concern."