Rooney goal puts Manchester United top of English Premier League
March 26, 2012 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
Wayne Rooney celebrates his goal just before halftime in the English Premier League game against Fulham.
- Manchester United beat Fulham 1-0 at Old Trafford
- Victory takes United top of the English Premier League
- First half goal by Wayne Rooney enough to seal three points
- Sevilla beat Granada 3-0 in Spain's La Liga
(CNN) -- Wayne Rooney's first half goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 win over Fulham Monday to go back to the top of the English Premier League.
The champions went into the evening clash at Old Trafford knowing a win would take them three points clear of local rivals Manchester City, who have led the standings for much of the season.
But it proved a hard won victory against obdurate opponents, who offered a threat throughout..
Fulham had strong penalty claims turned away late in the game as substitute Danny Murphy went tumbling in the box under challenge from Michael Carrick.
Referee Michael Oliver waved the appeals away and United were left to celebrate a vital win, their sixth in a row.
They had started the game with flourish but Fulham stifled their early threat and looked set to go in at halftime level.
But a defensive mistake undid Martin Jol's team as Ashley Young's cross initially eluded Rooney before John Arne Riise dithered and Jonny Evans sent back in the cross for the England striker to score his 11th in nine games.
The excellent Antonio Valencia forced a fine save from Mark Schwartzer in the Fulham goal and the Australian also denied Ashley Young after the break with Brede Hangeland blocking a follow up from Ryan Giggs.
With Rooney replaced by Paul Scholes, United looked to settle for just the single goal but were nearly undone as Carrick appeared to clip Murphy, with even his manager Alex Ferguson admitting his side had been lucky to avoid conceding a penalty.
"I think they had a claim, no doubt," he told Sky Sports. "We had a claim for a penalty in the first half when there was a clear hand ball.
"Maybe the ref was thinking about that."
Manchester City's 1-1 draw at Stoke had seen them head champions United on goal difference but with eight games left in the season they now trail.
In Spain's La Liga, Sevilla moved up to ninth with a 3-0 win at struggling Granada, but are still eight points adrift of a Champions League spot.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1622 GMT (0022 HKT)
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.