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Man United 3 Fulham 0: Rooney at the double to fire champions back to top

15 Mar 2010 00:57:15

Man United 3 Fulham 0: Rooney at the double to fire champions back to top

Simply the best: Wayne Rooney celebrates To say Manchester United are a oneman team would be most unfair on a number of players who have so consistently excelled in recent months. But it continues to come down to one man to score the goals at Old Trafford, one man who appears capable of hitting any target be it directly in front of him or some way off in the future. Wayne Rooney scored his 24th and 25th Premier League goals yesterday to take his tally for the season to 32 and even manager Sir Alex Ferguson now admits that Cristiano Ronaldo's mark of 42 for a single campaign is comfortably within his reach. Not least because he could have as many as 13 games left this season and that, given how prolific he is proving, would appear to be ample time. He still needs support from those who dovetail around him, and against Fulham it was Nani and an outstanding Dimitar Berbatov who presented him with the opportunities to propel United back to the summit of the Barclays Premier League. But Rooney remains at the pinnacle of his powers, so much so that in the opinion of Berbatov he is now the best player in the world. Roo beauty: Rooney (left) slots home his second goal against Fulham It is hard to argue with the Bulgarian when Rooney displays such versatility as well as a devastating ability to destroy the opposition. Milan one day; Fulham the next. Liverpool will not relish the prospect of visiting Old Trafford on Sunday, especially when they have to play twice before making the short trip down the M62. After their exertions in Turin on Thursday night, Fulham certainly suffered because of fatigue. They put up a fight for 45 minutes, earning praise from Ferguson for the way Danny Murphy and Chris Baird stood firm in central midfield. But United were like a predator with its prey, playing with Fulham until they decided it was time to go in for the kill. Predator: Rooney nips in to score the first goal In his programme notes, Ferguson called on his side to win their last nine league matches in a bid to become the first side to secure four consecutive titles and, after a goalless first half, he no doubt reminded them of his request. If he did, the response was immediate. A goal within 30 seconds of the restart and one that all but ended the match as a contest. Fulham had no response, other than a slightly fortuitous opportunity for Bobby Zamora that the striker squandered, demonstrating why he should not be considered for England. Not once did they force Edwin van der Sar to make a save. Not once did United's back four come under any real pressure, other than when Nemanja Vidic sprinted back to make the tackle that denied a hesitant Zamora the chance to equalise. Watching this, it was hard to believe that United lost by the same score at Craven Cottage in December. Fulham were so inferior to their hosts, and so fearful, it seemed, of the player who wears United's No 10 shirt. Rooney should have scored long before he did, although he was no more guilty than Berbatov, Darren Fletcher or Nani of wasting the many first-half chances they created. In fairness to Rooney, it took a quite brilliant save from Mark Schwarzer to stop him landing the initial blow long before he did. The keeper also somehow denied Fletcher after the break when it seemed certain the Scotsman would end a jinking run into the box with a goal. Icing on the cake: Dimitar Berbatov (centre) heads in United's third goal There was nothing, however, that the Australian could do to prevent Rooney from extending his remarkable run in the first minute of the second half. After a neat ball out to Nani on the left wing, Rooney timed his run to perfection to then meet the Portugal winger's delivery with a first-time shot that flew beyond the reach of the Fulham keeper. With United enjoying 65 per cent of the possession, other chances followed. Vidic sent a volley on to the roof of the net and Rooney threatened when he met a fine cross from Gary Neville with a header that drifted wide. HEADER HEREMANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): Van derSar 6; Neville 6 (Fabio da Silva 87min, 6),Ferdinand 6, Vidic 7, Evra 7; Valencia 6(Park 73, 7), Fletcher 7, Carrick 7, Nani 7;Rooney 9, Berbatov 8.Booked: Valencia.FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer 7; Kelly 6,Hughes 5, Hangeland 5 (Greening 62, 6), Shorey 5; Gera 5, Baird 6, Murphy 6,Davies 5 (Duff 46, 5); Zamora 4,Dempsey 5 (Nevland 72, 6).Booked: Murphy. Man of the match: Wayne Rooney. Referee: Michael Jones. Then came Fulham's one chance to put a serious dent in United's title challenge. A long ball forward from Baird was flicked on by Erik Nevland and suddenly Zamora had just Van der Sar to beat. Until, that is, he slowed down, took one touch too many and discovered that Vidic was now between him and United's goalkeeper. As Ferguson declared af terwards, i t was qui te a challenge. It was as impressive as the flash of skill and pace from Berbatov that finally enabled Rooney to put this game beyond Fulham's reach in the 84th minute. After slipping the ball through Nicky Shorey's legs, Berbatov then accelerated away from Shorey and Baird before inviting Rooney to score with another first-time strike. That Berbatov then scored United's third five minutes after that was no less than he deserved. It crowned an excellent performance from the former Tottenham forward. A full range of his many attributes as a striker. A move that started with a wonderful cross-field ball from Rooney continued when Ji-sung Park then accelerated towards goal and delivered a cross that Berbatov guided beyond the reach of Schwarzer with a super header. Manchester United celebrated 100 years at Old Trafford yesterday, and indeed, it felt like history was once again being made for United and for Rooney, this extraordinary young man on whom the hopes of a club, not to mention a nation, now rest.  Manchester United 3 Fulham 0 - all the action as it happenedReal Madrid 'obsessed' with signing £90m Rooney, claims former presidentUnited defender Ferdinand: I've put my injury problems behind meMANCHESTER UNITED FC


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