Fergie forecasts Rooney goal-spree as drought ends

WEST BROMWICH, England, Jan 2, 2011 (AFP) - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Wayne Rooney to go on a goalscoring run after the striker began 2011 by ending his barren spell.

The England forward took just two minutes and 15 seconds to find the net in Saturday's 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion for what was only his third United goal of the season and first club goal from open play since March.

West Bromwich Albion's Graham Dorrans (2nd L) vies with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (L) during the match. AFP

Ferguson was thrilled with Rooney's all-round display after he also created United's 75th-minute winner, delivering the corner which was headed home by Mexican substitute Javier Hernandez.

"He was out of this world," Ferguson said of Rooney. "He drove us on. I'm very pleased for Wayne. He's got his goal so that's him off the mark.

"Hopefully, that's him on a run now."

Victory saw United stay top of the Premier League on goal difference from Manchester City following their rivals' win over Blackpool.

Ferguson admitted what was only United's second away league win of the season was a hugely significant boost their hopes of wresting back the title from Chelsea.

"It was a massive result for us," he told Sky Sports. "We've had to battle in games a lot down the years and this was one of them.

"In fairness to the players, even though some of them didn't play well, they battled all the way through."

His sentiments were echoed by defender Rio Ferdinand, who said: "You've got to win games. I don't care how we win. The three points is all that counts.

"You've got to dig deep in these games and these are the type of games you can make up a lot of ground in the league."

It proved to be a tale of two penalties at The Hawthorns after referee Chris Foy had denied the Baggies a spot-kick with the score at 1-1 when Gary Neville, United's last man, clearly brought down Graham Dorrans inside the area.

Foy later awarded a penalty for a foul by Ferdinand on Jerome Thomas only for Peter Odemwingie to disappoint the home crowd by firing wide.

Ferguson admitted his team were fortunate to escape the first claim, which should also have resulted in a red card for veteran right-back Neville.

"It was a penalty," he said. "I thought it was difficult for the referee. At the time I thought Gary had got it but when I saw the replay he had got the outside of the player's leg."

West Brom manager Roberto di Matteo, who had seen his side equalise through James Morrison's exquisite volley, bemoaned Foy's failure to give a penalty following Neville's challenge and the Italian was adamant it had a major bearing on the outcome.

"It was a very clear penalty," di Matteo said. "Everyone saw it except the main man who was supposed to. It would have changed the game completely.

It didn't mean we would have won but we would have tried. It was a goalscoring opportunity. He (Neville) would have had to go."

The Baggies now head to Fulham on Tuesday bidding to avoid a fifth straight defeat and former Chelsea midfielder di Matteo said: "We are talking again about not deserving to lose, but we have.

"There comes a point where we need to pick up points as well."

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