HULL, December 28 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Wayne Rooney as a natural winner after the England striker inspired a 3-1 win at Hull.Reigning champions United, who moved to within two points of leaders Chelsea with the victory, were indebted to Rooney, who scored the opening goal and also created both his team’s others in an inspired display.
Rooney’s only blip was conceding possession in the build-up to Hull’s equalising penalty.
Ferguson paid tribute to his star striker and believes United can look forward with confidence to Wednesday’s home clash with Wigan now some of his previously injured defenders are back in the side.
Rooney has taken his tally for the season to 14 goals and is well on course to beat his personal best of 23 in a campaign.
"Let’s hope he does it," said Ferguson. "He’s certainly got the talent to do that. If he stays playing the way he did today, with his penetration, then he is a real threat.
"He made a mistake, gave the ball away for the goal but it was his one bad moment in the game. He was exceptionally good today.
"He’s got that determination, it’s in-born. You never lose that. He’s a natural winner."
Looking at the title race, Ferguson said: "There are some unusual results going around and come the second half (of the season), it’s looking like a very tight league.
"I think experience will come into it. In the run-in teams with experience who have been there all the time – Chelsea, Arsenal, ourselves – have that. Experience will be important.
"And the team that stays clear of injuries will also have an advantage.
The veteran Scottish boss added: "I’m hopeful we will have all our injured defenders back by the time the European campaign starts again, that will be important to us.
"If you make mistakes in this league you are going to get punished and whoever eradicates mistakes will have a great chance.
"But seeing what is happening around us, we’ve got to see this as a step forward today."
Ferguson was particularly happy to have Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic return to the heart of United’s back four against Hull after a run which has seen as many as eight first team defenders on the treatment table at the same time.
"We got the centre-backs back and that makes a difference to us," Ferguson said. "In the rest of the squad, we don’t have injury problems, the midfield, the forwards.
"It was good to have Darren Fletcher in midfield after him and Michael Carrick played at centre-back for a few games.
"These are all bonuses and we have a home game against Wigan on Wednesday, Leeds in the FA Cup, Man City in the Carling (League) Cup – it’s a nice spell of really interesting games coming up."
Defeat kept Hull second bottom in the table and left Tigers boss Phil Brown reflecting on what might have been.
"When we got the equaliser, we were certainly rattling them and causing them problems," Brown said ahead of Tuesday’s clash with relegation rivals Bolton.
"There have been two very good performances in our last two games but the disappointing thing is we did not get anything from either. We have to put that right on Tuesday night.
"It is no good to me bringing that level of commitment to the table against the top four and getting nothing and then going to Bolton and not giving the same commitment. It is a no-brainer."