MANCHESTER, England, Dec 31, 2009 (AFP) - Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney believes he will beat his best ever goal tally for a single season after inspiring Sir Alex Ferguson's side to a comprehensive 5-0 demolition of Wigan.
Roberto Martinez's Wigan held United at bay in the opening stages at Old Trafford on Wednesday before Rooney took over and United cruised home to close the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to just two points.
|Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match against Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford in Manchester on December 30, 2009. AFP PHOTO|
Rooney broke the deadlock for the home side with a fine finish - his 15th of the season - and the England star believes he can overhaul his 2006-07 season total when he netted 23 times for United.
"I hope so. If I don’t score eight goals between now and the end of the season, something is seriously wrong," Rooney said.
"We went into the game knowing that we were seven goals behind Chelsea and we wanted to close the gap. So scoring five goals has taken us a lot closer and we are pleased with that.
"Five goals against any team is quite rare nowadays, so we have to be pleased."
United, led by Rooney, were simply too good for the visitors and they went into the break 3-0 up after Wigan had initially frustrated them with some desperate defending.
However, once Rooney's opener was followed by a goal from Michael Carrick four minutes later, it became clear there would only be one winner.
It was just a question of when Wigan would concede rather than if and a further first-half goal from Rafael Da Silva ensured humiliation was on the cards for the visitors.
So it proved after the break when Dimitar Berbatov and former Wigan player Antonio Valencia also netted, much to boss Sir Alex Ferguson's delight.
The Scot was full of praise for Rooney, who was easily the best player on the pitch, harrying and probing the Wigan defence and constantly driving United forward.
Ferguson said: "I would agree the first 45 minutes was probably our best of the season, the movement from us was terrific, we created a lot of chances.
"We had one cleared off the line, Wayne hit a post, it was just marvellous stuff. Sunday against Hull City and, again, here Wayne was absolutely fantastic.
"The energy he shows, his desire to win, is marvellous. But this particular time the whole team played well.
"I think the second half of the season has always been the period when experience is going to be important and we have got that.
"We've got the squad, got the energy to do it. Let's hope we can."
Wigan manager Martinez was understandably more subdued than his counterpart and branded his side’s performance as unacceptable.
Wigan lost 5-0 to United back in August and Martinez had claimed that his side would perform at a higher level in their away encounter against the Premier League champions but his words backfired on him.
"You come to places like Old Trafford, it is not good enough to be good," he said.
"You have to be perfect in what you're doing. You need to be very, very solid and you need to earn the right to be on the ball and express yourself.
"We did things the other way round. They were playing like individuals, we never looked like a team, and when you do that you get heavily punished.
"Too many times it has happened this season and it's unacceptable. We have to correct it.
"When you have got a selfish performance like we had, it's totally unacceptable. We have bounced back before and will carry on doing it."