Rooney puts Man Utd within a point of Chelsea
On this form, could Rooney better Denis Law's record of 46 goals in a season?
Manchester United 3 West Ham 0. England past and England present were too much for West Ham at Old Trafford last night as goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen helped United to a victory that moves them to within a point of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
A brace from Rooney, in the form of his life as the World Cup approaches, took his tally for the season to 27, while Owen provided a timely reminder to England boss Fabio Capello that he still has much to offer when it comes to taking chances.
But it was Rooney who stole the show with another scintillating performance that afterwards drew praise from both managers. "In Rooney, they have a player who turns everything to gold," said Hammers' boss Gianfranco Zola, no slouch himself in front of goal during his illustrious playing career. "He is one of the most complete strikers in the world."
And "complete" was also the word Alex Ferguson used to describe Rooney, adding that if his form continues he will soon be "ready to join the distinguished band of United legends".
Denis Law holds the Manchester United record for goals scored in a season – 46 in 1963-64 – but there remains an outside chance Rooney could better that figure if his gluttony for goals continues. The Reds have a minimum of 12 matches remaining – including Sunday's Carling Cup Final – but a good run in the Champions League will increase the England striker's chances of overhauling Law's tally.
Rooney and United started slowly against West Ham last night, perhaps a result of the five changes Ferguson had made to the team following last weekend's defeat to Everton. There were returns for Darron Gibson and Ben Foster, while Nemanja Vidic made his first appearance for United after an eight-week lay-off with a calf injury.
But on 38 minutes United came to life, just as the Hammers were starting to look comfortable. Park Ji Sung picked out Dimitar Berbatov, whose chipped pass across the penalty area to Antonio Valencia out wide on the right was volleyed back and there was Rooney to send a diving header past keeper Robert Green for the opening goal of the game.
Ten minutes into the second half Rooney found the net again, and he had Berbatov to thank for a deft pass that released Valencia down the right flank. The Ecuadorian scampered away from Jonathan Spector, and floated the ball to Rooney who headed home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Owen came off the bench to score United's third of the night, the former England striker profiting from an intelligent through ball from Paul Scholes to chip over Green. It was Owen's first Premier League goal since his winning effort in stoppage time against Manchester City back in September. Owen and Rooney for England in South Africa? On last night's evidence, Capello could do a lot worse. ·
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