Rooney double takes United back to summit

Manchester United 3 Fulham 0

Wayne Rooney took his goal glut to 32 with another fine double to take Manchester United back to the Premier League summit.

Although they wasted a huge number of chances, with Dimitar Berbatov the prime culprit, United did enough to re-establish their dominant position with eight games of the campaign remaining.

Rooney provided a suitably quick-fire response after a goalless first half and after he converted Berbatov's cross seven minutes from time to leave him just 10 adrift of Cristiano Ronaldo's massive total of two years ago, Berbatov ended a frustrating afternoon by finally getting his name on the scoresheet.

It has come to that stage in the season where every round of fixtures bring their own pressure.

And, on the occasion chosen to mark Old Trafford's 100th birthday, it was United needing to follow Chelsea and Arsenal, who after initial struggles, had ended up with three points yesterday.

On the face of it, a Fulham side in the middle of a titanic Europa League tie with Juventus would appear to be the perfect opponents.

Yet, as Ferguson pointed out in the build-up, Roy Hodgson has revolutionised life at Craven Cottage and masterminded a three-goal victory over these same opponents in December.

At the time, United were severely weakened by a loss of defenders.

With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic back those problems are now at an end. On this occasion, it was United's attack that misfired.

The hosts had plenty of possession and got into the right areas often enough.

But at some stage, all their first half attacks broke down.

Only twice could the Fulham defence take complete credit.

A collective effort ensured Rooney did not profit when Darren Fletcher elected to square the ball after charging into the box to reach Berbatov's return pass.

Mark Schwarzer denied Rooney later in the half with a fabulous one-handed save after the England man had curled a shot goalwards from 20 yards.

Restored to the starting line-up after missing the midweek demolition of AC Milan, Berbatov had no-one to blame but himself for failing to convert his best chances, both of which were headers.

True, that part of the game is not the Bulgarian's strong point but, after finding space deep inside the Fulham box, he should have done better after being picked out by Antonio Valencia and Nani respectively.

Rooney was grumbling at half-time after being hauled down by Stephen Kelly without winning a penalty. He was all smiles 29 seconds after the restart though.

A scrappy build-up saw Berbatov nod the ball into his strike partner's path. Rooney then fed Nani before advancing into the big hole Fulham's disorientated defence had left.

Once Nani delivered the return pass back into exactly the same area, the outcome was inevitable.

With the home side in front, so was the result.

Anxiety remained though as long as the wait for a second continued.

Rooney and Berbatov both failed to profit from decent half chances, in the latter man's case an acrobatic volley from Valencia's cross that flew narrowly wide.

At least they could claim to have got somewhere near the goal, unlike Patrice Evra, who screwed his 25-yard shot so wide it resulted in a Fulham throw.

The value of having Ferdinand and Vidic back in harness was seen as the clock ticked down.

Starved of possession and chances, Bobby Zamora had been given little opportunity to press home his England credentials.

But when he ran onto a flick from substitute Eric Nevland, Zamora must have felt it was the moment he had waited for.

Instead, after being caught out by the initial move, Vidic darted back and snuffed out the opportunity with a thunderous challenge.

For Zamora it was a frustrating afternoon.

It looked like being the same for Berbatov after he failed to convert Park Ji-sung's neat cross.

But after creating yet another goal for Rooney with a neat cut-back seven minutes from time, the £30.75million man finally located the target himself, from Park's cross, to complete a scoreline more in keeping with the one-sided nature of proceedings.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power