Chelsea beat West Ham 4-1 with two goals from Ivorian as Arsenal keep pace with late win.
|Rooney is in electric form for the English champions [GALLO/GETTY]|
Wayne Rooney notched a second-half double to continue his extraordinary scoring spree and fire Manchester United back to the top of the English Premier League.
Rooney’s brace and a late third from strike partner Dimitar Berbatov gave the Reds a 3-0 win over Fulham, who held the champions until Ronney struck from Nani’s pass 30 seconds after half-time.
Bobby Zamora could have made it 1-1 with 15 minutes left after running clear through on Edwin van der Sar’s goal but he tarried long enough for Nemanja Vidic to sprint back and block his shot.
With six minutes left, Berbatov controlled a long ball from over his shoulder before cutting past two defenders and teeing up Rooney for an easy finish – his 25th goal in the league and 32nd in all competitions.
Bulgarian Berbatov got his reward for a stylish and selfless display when he headed home Park Ji-Sung’s pinpoint cross with a minute left.
United go two points clear of Chelsea with 66 after 30 matches, but the Londoners have played a game less. Arsenal, in third, have 64 points from 29 games.
Sunderland face Manchester City in Sunday’s late match.
Rooney has been transformed from his role as provider and workhorse to Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese winger’s move to Real Madrid last summer.
|Results & fixtures|
Saturday March 13
Birmingham 2-2 Everton
Sunday March 14
Monday March 15
Tuesday March 16
And his manager Alex Ferguson believes in-form England striker should be able to surpass Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 41 goals in a 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 told Sky Sports News.
“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 goalscoring.
“I think Fulham with their possession made us work hard and chase around a bit. It was hard to get the ball off them. They have experienced players who are comfortable on the ball.
“We had to try and increase the pace of the game and hurry them up a bit, but the most important thing about Rooney’s first goal was it put their team on the back foot and gave us momentum.”
In Sunday’s other match, fifth-placed Manchester City needed a superb stoppage-time equaliser by Adam Johnson to earn a 1-1 draw at Sunderland which left them two points behind Tottenham Hotspur in the battle for fourth spot.
A rip-roaring second half at the Stadium of Light saw Manchester City lay siege to the home goal as they sought to make amends for a dismal opening 45 minutes in which Kenwyne Jones headed Sunderland in front.
Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon made several outstanding saves but could do nothing when Johnson curled a left-foot shot into the top corner just past the 90-minute mark.