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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.
Wayne Rooney celebrates his goal just before halftime in the English Premier League game against Fulham.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 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.

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