A meeting between Sir Alex and the United medical team on Sunday maydecide that Dimitar Berbatov needs an operation on his left knee,leaving an even bigger load on Rooney's broad shoulders for the nextthree months, with Danny Welbeck and goalscoring new arrival Mame Dioufstill raw, Federico Macheda injured and Michael Owen a bit-partsubstitute.
Fortunately for United, Rooney seems to thrive on it. Saturday'sperformance was not one of his better outings. But it was still hisdelicious pass that set up Berbatov for the opening strike after 64minutes, and his goal made the game safe five minutes later, his 16thof the season.
Strife of Brian: Dimitar Berbatov's deflected strike flies past a startled Brian Jensen
Diouf's first for Manchester United in injury-time wrapped upaffairs and enabled United to stay only a point behind Chelsea,something to cheer on a day when many fans attended anti-Glazermeetings to complain about the £700million debt loaded on United by theclub's American owners.
For Burnley's new manager, Brian Laws, there was some satisfaction even in a 3-0 defeat.
David Nugent squandered a great chance for the visitors with thegame still goalless and as Laws said: 'This result won't decide if westay up. That will depend on whether we can beat the teams around us.'
Ferguson was justified in his pre-match pronouncement that Berbatovand Rooney were his first-choice strike pairing, with each playersetting up a goal for his partner.
Sweet 16: Wayne Rooney drilled home United's second
But that was dampened when Berbatov had to come off clearly feelinghis knee, having played through ligament damage for most of the season.
Ferguson said: 'We were a bit anxious in the first half but I alwaysfelt we'd get the first goal at some point. That was the key. You needthat to open teams up.
'Berba was the one who looked like scoring. Rooney had one of thosedays when he must have had 10 goal attempts, but in the end he didscore the second goal and that settled us.
'Dimitar was feeling his knee. He could have come off at half-time.We have a big programme ahead of us so it's difficult. We will look atit on Monday.'
The plus side for Ferguson and Berbatov will be if the striker isback in action and raring to go for the business end of the season inApril and May. Burnley, who had suffered the trauma of losing popularmanager Owen Coyle to Bolton last week, did not look like a side whohad taken only one point out of a possible 30 away from Turf Moor.
New boy: Manchester United's Mame Biram Diouf skips past Burnley's David Edgar
New man Laws, an uncompromising defender as a player, must have beendelighted to see his side reach the interval intact, with Brian Jensenhaving to make only one great save from Nani's overhead kick. Nugentwasted Burnley's big chance when he shot wide after outpacing GaryNeville after an hour.
But the United juggernaut finally broke through when Rooney slippeda pass to Berbatov, whose rising finish was too powerful for Jensen.
Quickly, United were 2-0 up, Jensen parrying Berbatov's shot and Rooney taking his time to place the rebound from eight yards.
Berbatov and Rooney were replaced 17 minutes from the end, withRooney now looking certain to face Manchester City in Tuesday's CarlingCup semi-final first leg.
It meant a rare chance for Owen but, instead, it was the othersubstitute, Diouf, who grabbed an injury-time third when he headed pastan advancing Jensen after Neville's pass had split the defence.
Burn notice: New boss Brian Laws saw his side create a host of chances at Old Trafford
Laws, whose striker Steven Fletcher had an X-ray on an ankle injurylast night, said: 'We had our opportunities but couldn't takethem.Nugent had a little push in the back from Neville. It would havebeen interesting if we'd got that one because their crowd were gettinga bit quiet at that stage.'
Burnley have begun negotiations with Portsmouth to extend Nugent's loan spell at the club.
Laws wants to make the team harder to beat as well. 'We were a little bit gung-ho in the last half-hour,' he said.
'There were more plus points than minuses in the performance, butI've got some brutal decisions to make because there isn't much timeleft in the transfer window.'
Man United boss Ferguson hopeful striker Berbatov can avoid surgeryCSKA winger Krasic seeks United or Arsenal move after snubbing Man CityMANCHESTER UNITED FC