Man Utd Focus - Rooney hitting form as season nears crunch time
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is hitting his stride just as the business end of the season is approaching. The England international scored the solitary and decisive goal in Saturday's victory at Craven Cottage, which coupled with Manchester City's draw against Liverpool on Sunday, has opened up a nine point gap at the top of the Premier League table.
Rooney now has ten goals in his last ten games, finding his form at just the right time for the Old Trafford club. The next three fixtures that Sir Alex Ferguson's side will contest will be in each of the competitions that they are gunning for, starting with a difficult league game at home against Everton. The Reds then travel to the Bernabéu to take on Real Madrid in the Champions League, before hosting Reading in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
It will be a big week for United as they bid to kick on with their campaign, and Rooney will be integral to his team being successful on all fronts. Injuries have disrupted his season so far, but since returning to the lineup against West Ham in the FA Cup last month, Rooney has been regaining his form and fitness. Three clinical finishes have punctuated his last three outings, and in a week that saw City draw twice, Rooney scored all of United's goals to increase their lead at the top by four points.
Now 27, the forward ought to be hitting his peak, especially considering he is operating in tandem with one of the finest strikers in world football, Robin van Persie. There is unquestionably a greater maturity to Rooney's game, and in recent weeks his confidence also seems to be returning. This is exemplified by his brutal finish against Fulham in the FA Cup and the composed winner at Craven Cottage at the weekend.
The Rooney-inspired victory gave United a Premier League record of 62 points from the opening 25 games, but the former Everton man has been ably assisted by van Persie and Javier Hernandez, with the former recording 22 goals and 6 assists in all competitions, and the latter weighing in with 14 goals. If one of Ferguson's strikers fails to impose themselves on a game, another of them invariably does.
Rooney has also contributed seven assists in the league, and has scored as many away goals as he has at Old Trafford. This comfort on the road - also displayed by van Persie, who is the only Premier League player so far to hit double figures away from home - will be crucial as United face some tricky tests in the next couple of months. Real, Queens Park Rangers, West Ham and Sunderland will all welcome the deposed champions to their grounds before United host City on the 6th of April, capping what could prove to be a decisive period in the Premier League title race.
Should United retain or extend their nine point lead prior to the top two's second meeting of the season, it would be hugely likely that the red half of Manchester will be celebrating come May. Rooney keeping up his current rich vein of form would greatly assist in this possibility becoming reality, and help United achieve success in the cup competitions.
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