Premier League - United close gap on Chelsea

Eurosport - Tue, 23 Feb 21:43:00 2010

Wayne Rooney scored a headed double as Manchester United beat West Ham 3-0 to move within a point of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney scores his side's first goal of the game - 0

The fixture was brought forward due to Manchester United's involvement in this weekend's Carling Cup final as the Red Devils sought to bounce back from Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Everton.

And Sir Alex Ferguson's troops seized the opportunity to put points on the board as Rooney struck either side of the break to extend his goalscoring record to 19 goals in as many games before substitute Michael Owen sealed the points.

United came racing out of the blocks, Darron Gibson testing Robert Green with an early cross. Superb link-up play between Anderson and Rooney then saw Antonio Valencia played in at the back post - but the unmarked Ecuadorian completely missed his volley.

West Ham weathered the early storm as the injured Anderson, making his first start since mid-December, was replaced by Ji-Sung Park. From there the visitors pressed for an unlikely opener, Valon Behrami seeing his shot from a tight angle deflected narrowly wide.

The superb Valencia caused West Ham problems throughout, cutting in from the right after 25 minutes before seeing his left-footed strike parried by Green with Dimitar Berbatov's flicked follow-up not having enough pace to take the ball over the line.

United continued to press as Green produced a fine save to tip Gibson's shot around the post after 34 minutes and the hosts put West Ham to the sword four minutes later with a superb team move.

Berbatov chipped a pinpoint pass to Valencia who, from the right side of the box, volleyed back across goal with Rooney, scorer of two headers in Milan last week, nodding home.

And Rooney nearly doubled United's lead two minutes before the break with a remarkable show of skill, flicking the ball up to himself before sending a looping volley inches over the crossbar from the edge of the box.

West Ham showed enough going forward in the first half to suggest the game was not dead at the break but United emerged for the restart in ruthless form, with Park hitting the bar just 20 seconds after kick-off.

The defending champions put the game to bed in the 55th minute when Valencia lost his man before standing up a cross which Rooney, who had expertly lost his man, headed home for his second of the night.

West Ham were not without their chances and Carlton Cole should have done better when he glanced Alessandro Diamanti's fierce corner wide.

But United looked comfortable at the back with Nemanja Vidic in commanding form on his return from injury.

Rooney and Berbatov were granted a standing ovation by Ferguson with 10 minutes remaining as Owen and Mame Biram Diouf came on.

Owen had time to remind Fabio Capello of his ruthless finishing ability, firing a clinical shot past Green after being slipped in by former England team-mate Paul Scholes.

George Scott / Eurosport

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