Wayne Rooney maintained his stunning run of form with two more goals on Sunday as Manchester United beat Fulham 3-0 to return to the top of the English Premier League.
Rooney took his tally for the season to 32 in all competitions and lifted United two points clear of Chelsea and Arsenal, though Chelsea still have a game in hand.
Dimitar Berbatov added a third goal to seal the win but United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was full of praise again for the efforts of Rooney, who he believes could end beating the 42 goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo last season.
“I said a while ago it’s impossible for a player to get 42 but he is on 32 and there is a challenge there for him,” Ferguson said.
“He is capable of scoring in the next eight league games and five possible European games, so he has 13 possible games and you never know, I wouldn’t put it beyond him. I was just glad he got to the 30 mark, but we are enjoying his goal-scoring.” The hosts began the match attempting to avenge the stunning 3-0 win Fulham inflicted on them at Craven Cottage back in December.
But despite dominating proceedings and creating several good chances, United were unable to find a breakthrough in the first-half.
Fulham’s resistance, however, was broken just 30 seconds into the second-half as Nani’s ball found Rooney ten metres from goal and the England striker finished clinically to claim his 15th goal in his last 11 matches.
Having gone behind, Fulham did finally make more of an effort to attack their hosts and will feel they should have equalised with 20 minutes remaining as Bobby Zamora found himself ahead of the home defence with only the goalkeeper to beat.
But with Zamora failing to capitalise quickly on the chance, Nemanja Vidic was able to get back to thwart the striker.
With the clock ticking down, United were ultimately able to claim the further goals that their play throughout had deserved and it was no surprise that Rooney should be the one to make it 2-0.
Excellent work from Berbatov created the chance 10 minutes from time as Rooney swept the Bulgarian’s cross into the back of the net.
In injury time Berbatov himself got onto the scoresheet after heading in Park Ji-Sung’s cross from close range and the Bulgarian said he believes United will go on to win a fourth consecutive title.
“There can only be one winner and I think it is going to be us,” he said. “Arsenal and Chelsea are great teams and we have difficult games ahead of us but the good thing is we play at home at Old Trafford against Chelsea and that will be an advantage for us.
“I am optimistic that in the end we will be champions.” In Sunday’s other match, Manchester City’s pursuit of fourth place stuttered slightly as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland.
In the end, though, City were thankful for a share of the points after Kenywne Jones’s early strike gave Sunderland the lead for almost 80 minutes.
Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a string of good saves before Adam Johnson curled in a brilliant equalizer in injury time to pinch a draw.
City remain fifth, two points behind Tottenham, with a game in hand, while Sunderland are now seven points clear of the relegation zone.