On-fire Rooney gives Chelsea warning

On-fire Rooney gives Chelsea warning

Published Feb. 23, 2010 11:34 p.m. ET

Wayne Rooney produced another match-winning performance for Manchester United as he took his tally for the season to 27 by bagging a double against West Ham.

Michael Owen scored for the first time since that hat-trick at Wolfsburg in December as the Red Devils closed to within a point of Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea.

But Owen's late effort was a mere footnote compared to Rooney's contribution.

The 24-year-old has been set a conservative target of 30 by Sir Alex Ferguson.

At this rate he will eclipse the 42 that helped turn Cristiano Ronaldo into the world's best player two years ago.

Where the Red Devils would be without the striker does not bear thinking about. Little wonder Ferguson once again opted to stick with him against supposedly lesser opposition on home soil when probably, he could do with a rest, however minimal.

The wisdom of the selection was proved just before half-time when Rooney planted his diving header into the corner of Robert Green's goal.

It would be churlish to exclude Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia from praise given the Bulgarian's excellent crossfield pass and an even better volleyed cross to the far post from the South American.

But Rooney was the man who had shifted into space, Rooney who had to finish. There was never any prospect of him failing.

In a very similar manner to his opener, Rooney found himself in splendid isolation when Berbatov released Valencia with another excellent pass in the build up to the second.

Once again the cross was inviting. Once again Rooney sent it past Green.

For a player of his class, his finishes had been routine.

Owen grabbed the third after an inspired through ball from Paul Scholes.

It was Owen's eighth of the season, only one short of Berbatov's tally.

A long way behind Rooney though. And the gap is going to get wider yet.