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By ESPN Staff

Sir Alex hals Rooney's return to form

Sir Alex Ferguson is looking for Wayne Rooney to maintain the form that helped Manchester United destroy Hull on Sunday.

Rooney scored his 14th goal of the season to put the Red Devils ahead then created two more after his mistake had allowed the Tigers to level at the KC Stadium.

With Ferguson's defensive injury problems starting to ease, the United boss is now looking to build some momentum heading into the second half of a campaign which could yet end with his side being crowned champions for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League season.

But for that to happen, Ferguson acknowledges he needs Rooney to be fit and firing. After a couple of lethargic performances from the 24-year-old, his most recent effort signalled a revival, one that his manager is looking for Rooney to continue.

"Wayne was fantastic on Sunday. That was the Wayne Rooney we know,'' said Ferguson. "He had a quiet spell for two or three matches but he was explosive at Hull. He was a constant threat.

"That is the kind of form we are hoping for because when he is playing like that, he is hard to handle.

"Wayne can step forward and be the main man but there are a few who have to step forward in that respect. We are coming to the time now. The challenge is there.

"The league is so tight and teams are taking points off each other that you don't expect. It means a consistent run from someone will give them a great chance.

"Our experience of run-ins is good. We know we can handle that part. The important thing is to beat Wigan tomorrow which would put us into the position I hoped we could get to, a couple of points off the leaders coming into the new year.''

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he would have gladly accepted being two points adrift of Chelsea in the depth of his defensive injury crisis.

Victory against Wigan will get United precisely to that point in the title race.

"I would definitely have taken being two points behind the leaders,'' said Ferguson. "When you look at all the defenders we have had out injured. It has been a key period to try and get through it.

"It is impossible to play midfield players at centre-back in this league. You might get away with it once. But not twice.

"It is so tight. When you see it grouped up like that the teams further down think they can do it. Sometimes the optimism is not realistic but people should feel like that about their chances because the league has lacked a consistent team that has won a few matches in a row.

"The vital answer to it is this - can you keep all your players fit? Big squads do help but look how we suffered by having all the defenders out. Teams who want to do well need a good nucleus of players to work with. Then you can pick your strongest possible team every week.''


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