All Muslims are supposed to follow the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in every matter of religion and they had no sects during his life despite having different degrees of faith and obedience to him as well having hypocrites (Munafiqeen) living amongst them. After the demise of the Prophet, Ahlul Bayt were the only authority mentioned by the Prophet to follow with Quran. (Saheeh Muslim and Saheeh Al-Tirmithi and many other books of Hadeeth).
Rulers who were against Ahlul Bayt tried to divert Muslim public away from Ahlul Bayt by creating religious leaderships away from Ahlul Bayt and directing the public towards those so called leaders who were been supported by anti Ahlul Bayt governments like Bani Omayyah and Bani Abbas etc. Many sects were created and promoted by such governments. Sunni sects were so many including Hanafi, Shafi'ee, Maliki, Hanbali, Awza'ee, Sufyan Al-Thawri, Sufyan bin 'Oyaynah etc.
These sects were formed long back after the demise of the Prophet (SAWA) during the second and third century after Hijra. None of their leaders (Imams) met the Prophet (SAWA) while the Ahlul Bayt (AS) lived with Prophet and took their knowledge from him.
Sunni books and prominent Sunni scholars like Ibn Hazm and Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari and many others wrote details of the support for different Sunni sects from different governments which caused the spread of those sects in different areas.
Ahlul Bayt (AS) and their followers suffered a lot from tyrant rulers for long centuries, yet they remained steady in following the original Islam of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).