Rooney fires United back to the top

Manchester United 2 West Brom 0

Wayne Rooney's double swept Manchester United to the top of the Barclays Premier League for the first time this year as West Brom were brushed aside at Old Trafford.

Rooney took his seasonal tally to 24 with a goal either side of the interval as United took advantage of Manchester City's shock defeat at Swansea to assume that familiar position at the head of affairs on the title run-in.

And with United at relegation-haunted Wolves next Sunday, City could find themselves four points adrift before they take to the field again, against resurgent Chelsea, at the Etihad Stadium on March 21.

That it could turn out to be such a pivotal day should not come as a surprise.

Since United won at Tottenham a week ago, the battle to be champions has been condensed into who wins the derby on April 30, with the eight games in between largely an irrelevance.

However, the traps that have to be negotiated on the path to glory are not insignificant as United, even with all their experience, so nearly found out and City did.

The Old Trafford outfit were still trying to adjust to a line-up with only one conventional winger in Ashley Young when Keith Andrews slid in to reach Liam Ridgewell's low left-wing cross.

It seemed the Irishman was sure to score. Instead, he prodded his effort wide.

Then, when Chris Brunt had touched a 30-yard free-kick into his path, Andrew let fly with a thunderous shot that would have found the bottom corner had David de Gea, not for the first time in recent games, not made a fine, full-length save.

It was the cue for Sir Alex Ferguson's side to awake from their slumber and Young to have an impact.

If Nani is going to be out for a few weeks as pre-match rumours suggested, Young is going to be a key man and needs to find the form he produced in his first few weeks as a United player.

Together with skipper Patrice Evra, Young tormented the right side of West Brom's defence.

The former Aston Villa man had a shot beaten away by Ben Foster, then ran on to Danny Welbeck's back-heeled through ball before cutting a cute cross back into the box which Jonas Olsson managed to scramble away.

When United's opener came, it was a wonder Young was not involved.

The Premier League could have been forgiven a sharp intake of breath as Foster immediately appealed for offside as Rooney touched home Javier Hernandez's cross from what did appear to be an illegal position.

After what went on at Bolton yesterday, further controversy was the last thing they needed.

Happily, in this instance, TV replays showed the officials had got it absolutely spot on as Rooney timed his run to perfection before netting for the fourth time in a week.

Peter Odemwingie had been a subdued presence during the opening period.

But when he went over Evra's half-hearted challenge, he was convinced West Brom should have had a penalty. He might have been right too, as Evra did not play the ball and dangled a leg out for the striker to fall on.

It was another of those fortunate moments United make a habit of capitalising on.

This time, they could not do it as Hernandez drove a shot against a post, Rooney's overhead kick went straight to Foster and, most startlingly of all, Welbeck slid his shot wide of an open goal after the entire West Brom defence, including their goalkeeper, had got caught out by Scholes' inspired long pass.

Booked at the start of the second period for a foul on Rooney, Olsson brought his afternoon to an early conclusion when he was beaten to Welbeck's pass by Hernandez and chopped the Mexican down instead.

Within five minutes, the hosts had their second, Rooney again the scorer, slotting home a clinical penalty after Andrews had fouled Young.

Among the plethora of substitutions that followed came Paul Pogba's for Scholes, which tends to shoot down suggestions that the teenage Frenchman has agreed to join Juventus in the summer.

Young and Hernandez both wasted chances to reduce the goal difference advantage City have in their favour at present.

However, it may not come down to that. And at Molineux next Sunday, it will hardly please under-fire Wolves boss Terry Connor to know United could really turn the screw.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London