MANCHESTER, England (AP) ― Wayne Rooney scored in the 42nd minute, and defending champion Manchester United defeated Fulham 1-0 Monday night to open a three-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League.
Following its sixth straight league win, United (23-3-4) has 73 points with eight games remaining as it tries to extend its record for English league titles to 20. Second-place City (22-4-4), seeking its first league title since 1968, hosts United on April 30.
“It’s a good position to be in, but it’s not decisive,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “It’s a good game for us tonight. That’s what it will be like for us for the rest of the season.”
|Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand (top) and Fulham’s Pavel Pogrebnyak challenge for the ball. (AP-Yonhap News)|
Rooney scored his 21st league goal of the season after John Arne Riise failed to clear a cross by Ashley Young. United defender Jonny Evans, who had come upfield for a corner kick, stabbed the ball back across goal for Rooney to stroke in from the edge of the six-yard box. It was his ninth goal in 11 games in all competitions.
Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer denied Young and Antonio Valencia in the second half. There were some nervous moments in the final 10 minutes for United, when Michael Carrick appeared to bundle over Danny Murphy in the penalty area. But referee Michael Oliver did not call for a penalty kick.
“I think everyone in the stadium expected a penalty, to be honest,” Fulham manager Martin Jol said. “But you have to be brave to give a penalty at Old Trafford.”
Except for a couple of long-range shots by American Clint Dempsey, 13th-place Fulham (9-12-9) was mostly on the defensive. The Cottagers have just on win at Old Trafford since 1959.