Sir Alex Ferguson believes Wayne Rooney has finally rediscovered his scoring touch after the England striker netted twice in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Rooney had not scored from open play at Old Trafford since the 2-1 victory over Liverpool in March last year, the game before he suffered an ankle injury at Bayern Munich. The forward has only scored five goals so far this season yet United are still five points clear at the top of the Premier League table and this latest victory equalled their club record of 29 league games unbeaten, set in the 'treble' winning season of 1998/99.
Ferguson insisted he never doubted Rooney would get back on the goal trail, saying: "Goals always help strikers still had the appetite to play and that's the important factor in it all, that he never stops trying the lad. It's an in-bred thing in the lad. He can't be criticised when he gives that effort. He gets his rewards eventually," the veteran United manager added.
Rooney opened the scoring with less than a minute gone before adding a second just before half-time. Bent pulled one back for Villa just before the hour but Nemanja Vidic fired in United's third five minutes later.
Villa manager Gerard Houllier believes Rooney will take United to another level if he can maintain the form he showed at Old Trafford on Tuesday. "He made a difference and his goals will help his confidence," Houllier said. "They managed to win a lot of games and remain unbeaten without him.
"With him... well he was on top of his game against us," the former Liverpool manager added. "He has everything, his control, he can turn, he can, twist, his passing, he defends he works hard," the Frenchman explained.
"On television you can press a button to follow a player and that's what kids should do because you can see the way he links play. After his injury he came back and was a bit difficult because usually you are good and then you are down and you come back. Now he's on his way back."
United quiet in buoyant transfer market
Ferguson's only deal during the January transfer window was the £3.5 million signing of Aalesunds' Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard. But a transfer spree from Chelsea, who signed Fernando Torres and David Luiz for £70 million on deadline day, and Liverpool, who brought Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to Anfield on Monday, made it a record window for English clubs.
Ferguson said the remarkable spending spree had been sparked by the move of striker Darren Bent, who briefly reduced United's lead to 2-1 on Tuesday, from Sunderland to Villa for £24 million. "I think the Darren Bent transfer has escalated the figures," Ferguson explained. "People are saying 'Well if Darren Bent's worth £24 million, my player is worth 24 plus', and that's what's happened. It created a chain reaction right through the country."
United are now in sight of a record 19th English title and Ferguson said: "You get in the run-in and you'll find that if we win games and keep knocking them off, we'll run out of games and that's what we've got to do. We've just got to keep winning."