LONDON, March 14, 2010 (AFP) - Wayne Rooney fired Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League as his double-strike inspired a 3-0 win over Fulham, while Adam Johnson's first Manchester City goal rescued a 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Sunday.
Sir Alex Ferguson's team had been knocked off top spot by Chelsea's victory against West Ham on Saturday, but Rooney struck 30 seconds after half-time at Old Trafford and added his 32nd goal of the season in the closing stages.
|Wayne Rooney reacts during the English Premier League football match against Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester on March 14, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
Dimitar Berbatov headed United's third goal in the last minute to ensure the champions moved two points clear of the Blues and third-placed Arsenal.
Ferguson believes in-form Rooney should be able to surpass Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 42 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."
United had lost 3-0 at Fulham earlier this season but Rooney, who has now scored 16 goals in his last 11 United appearances, broke their resistance when he met Nani's cross with a first-time finish that flashed past Mark Schwarzer from 10 yards out.
England forward Rooney put the result beyond doubt when he swept in Berbatov's 84th minute cross.
Berbatov sealed the rout with a diving header from South Korea winger Park Ji-Sung's 89th minute cross.
At the Stadium of Light, City were hoping to keep pace with fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for the final Champions League spot.
Roberto Mancini's team suffered an early setback as Kenwyne Jones headed home Steed Malbranque's cross in the ninth minute.
City dominated the second half, with Carlos Tevez forcing Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon to make a superb close-range save.
Gordon also denied Craig Bellamy twice but he could do nothing about former Middlesbrough winger Johnson's superb curling effort in stoppage time which moved City within two points of Tottenham.
"We conceded a goal after nine minutes and we started the game very slowly," Mancini told Sky Sports 1.
"The first half we didn't play very well. The second half we played well and had six, seven, eight chances to score a goal.
"That's football, if you don't score you don't win. But I'm happy with the second-half performance."