Rooney gives United top spot with win over Fulham

LONDON – Wayne Rooney scored two goals and helped set up another to lead Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Fulham on Sunday and top spot in the Premier League.

Rooney gives United top spot with win over Fulham

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney (L) celebrates with Dimitar Berbatov (R) after scoring his second goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England March 14, 2010. [Agencies] 

United struggled to break down a stubborn defense throughout the first half but Rooney scored in the first minute of the second period with a low shot into the bottom corner from Nani’s pass.

Rooney added his second in the 84th with a first-time shot into the far corner from Dimitar Berbatov’s cross and then helped set up his fellow striker for a headed goal with a minute left.

United manager Alex Ferguson said Rooney could top the 42 goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago.

“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 has 13 possible games and you never know. I wouldn’t put it beyond him.

Dempsey started for the first time since injuring his right knee January 17. He returned as a 61st-minute substitute in Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League defeat at Juventus.

Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer did not have to make a save until the 30th minute, diving full stretch to keep out a first-time shot from Rooney.

United dominated after the break, with Rooney sparking the move that led to his 15th goal in 12 matches. He passed out to Nani on the left and hit the return pass past Schwarzer.

Bobby Zamora had a chance to equalize with 15 minutes left when he got past Nemanja Vidic and raced in on goal. But the United defender recovered to block his shot with a perfectly timed sliding tackle just inside the area.

Rooney doubled United’s advantage by playing a pass out to Berbatov on the right and shooting from near the penalty spot from the return pass.

He then played a key role in United’s third goal, hitting a pass wide right to Park Ji-sung, who curled in a cross that Berbatov headed at the near post for his 10th goal of the season.

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