Fergie salutes Rooney

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LONDON, February 1 – Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Wayne Rooney's influential display had been the key to Manchester United's imperious 3-1 win at title rivals Arsenal on Sunday.Ferguson’s side moved within one point of leaders Chelsea after Manuel Almunia’s own goal was followed by a typically predatory finish from Rooney and a solo strike from South Korea’s Park Ji-Sung.

United were at their ruthless best at the Emirates Stadium and no-one better encapsulated the champions’ effervescent display better than Rooney.

The England forward was at the heart of United’s devastating counter-attacks and finished off their best break with his 100th Premier League goal and his 22nd of this season.

"Wayne was unbelievable. He was the key point for us in the sense that they just couldn’t handle him," Ferguson said.

"Everything was played towards him and he was on it all the time. He was a really great player."

Rooney is attracting interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid, but the former Everton star insists he would happily spend the rest of his career at Old Trafford and Ferguson expects David Gill, the club’s chief executive, to tie him to a new contract soon.

"I know how happy he is here. He is very popular among the players. He couldn’t be a better lad really. He is really down to earth and he won’t change because that is the way he is," Ferguson said.

"It is refreshing in this day and age when you see a lot of celebrity footballers who earn a lot of money. He never changes but a lot do with success.

"I’m sure David Gill is working with his agent Paul Stretford and hopefully something does happen."

Ferguson believes United’s midweek win over Manchester City in the League Cup semi-finals has given his players an extra burst of energy that could carry them to the title.

"It was great performance there’s no doubt about that. I’m really pleased because it is the time of year when we need to really kick on," he said.

"I think Wednesday’s result (against Manchester City) has galvanised us again and you saw the players were really ready for the game. They were sharp and good in their passing. We made a lot of chances.

"Counter-attack has always been part of our game. We capitalised on a lot of those opportunities here because Arsenal get to the edge of your box regularly, then if you can win the ball and counter-attack quick you get good chances against them."

While Ferguson’s team look in the rudest of health, Arsenal’s title hopes were completely exposed, prompting manager Arsene Wenger to launch an unusually scathing attack on his players.

"It is difficult to accept but easy to explain because we were poor defensively and offensively. We delivered an off the mark performance and that is why we were well beaten," Wenger said.

"We gave them too much room. We were naive. It is difficult to say straight after the game why we were not at our level. Did we want it too much? Were we a bit inhibited or tense?. I don’t know.

"It is too early to analyse but I believe there are some mental reasons.

"We had two corners and conceded two goals. I believe the intelligence of our positioning was wrong.

"It is a massive blow and a massive disappointment. The players wanted to win, they are really down. We have to recover from that. That is part of top-level football."

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