Manchester United 4, West Bromwich Albion 0: Red-hot Rooney puts Albion to the sword

United striker keeps up impressive scoring run as brave visitors finally succumb to four-star show
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The Independent Online

"No rest for him," Sir Alex Ferguson said before this game of the man who can't stop scoring goals. There was a good excuse for Carlos Tevez playing second fiddle to that man yet again – the Argentinian arrived from World Cup duty barely 24 hours before this game.



But the truth is that Wayne Rooney is on one of those goalscoring runs in which he is irresistible. He was out on the left doing his workhorse bit as United toiled to break the deadlock against a tough Albion rearguard, taking the corners when you just wanted to see him in the box. But he was brimful with confidence, pointing to Dimitar Berbatov precisely where he wanted the ball as the Bulgarian eased through the visitors' midfield on 56 minutes.

His wish was the £31m man's command. The ball arrived, Rooney cut back past Ryan Donk and thumped home a right-foot shot. That makes it eight goals in six games for club and country. Rooney was the fulcrum, too, of the move which saw his side put the game out of reach.

Collecting a ball out of central midfield from Darren Fletcher, he split the Albion defence with a pass which Ronaldo scampered after and slotted past Carson. Two minutes later, Nani's cross was deflected by Jonas Olsson towards Berbatov, who stuck out a leg to make it three. Ryan Giggs then unfurled a 30-yard pass in the 90th minute to Berbatov, who played the ball on to Rooney, who crossed for Nani to score the fourth.

West Bromwich Albion providing anything but a minor hurdle was never really part of the script, despite Ferguson's mild irritation on Friday lunchtime when no one thought of asking him a question about the Baggies. But West Bromwich quickly showed that their best Premier League start and three wins in the previous four was more than a statistical blip.

Granted, there was no serious threat to United's goal in the first half. The closest Tony Mowbray's side came to testing Edwin van der Sar came when Chris Brunt waltzed past Fletcher and shot at a comfortable height from 25 yards. But West Bromwich's defensive resilience starved the midfield axis of any meaningful challenge to Scott Carson and left Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney diving around in the vain hope of a free-kick. The last line of defence was lacking on a few occasions but when Jonas Olsson utterly missed a header in the dying minutes of the first half, there were no United players lurking and a Rooney corner which skimmed across the face of goal missed all red shirts too.

Ferguson might have known that his fortune with referees would run out sooner or later, too, considering the dubious penalty his side were awarded here against Bolton and the infringement overlooked when they opened the scoring at Blackburn. United certainly looked to have had the ball legitimately in the net on 22 minutes when a bad pass across goal from Paul Robinson was picked up by Ronaldo and threaded in for Rooney, who cut inside and put the ball away but was adjudged to have fouled the full-back Gianni Zuiverloon in the process of collecting the ball.

United were also convinced that Robinson handled when he blocked Rio Ferdinand's shot from the right side of the box after he chased a misdirected Ronaldo header. Marginal, but the appeal had some credence.

Those moments aside, United only occasionally converted their dominance into serious threats.

United ratcheted up the threat after the break. Six minutes of the second half had elapsed when Rooney seized on a loose ball and forced a good save from Carson, diving to his right. Within a minute Park's surging run was halted and the ball fell to Berbatov, who shot hard but straight at Carson.

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