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Rooney double keeps United on track for title

Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League by beating Southampton 2-1. While challengers Manchester City and Chelsea dropped points, United continue to eke out victories without playing particularly impressively.

United’s defensive vulnerability was in evidence again, when a poor back pass from Michael Carrick was misjudged by the goalkeeper David De Gea and Jay Rodriguez gave Southampton the lead.

Wayne Rooney showed that United do not have to rely solely on Robin Van Persie for goals with two first-half strikes. That should have been the signal for United to cruise to victory, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Southampton battled well in the second half. De Gea produced some decent saves while also reminding the home fans of his vulnerability by fumbling a free-kick that might have resulted in a Southampton equaliser.

Sir Alex Ferguson was in a talkative mood, even managing to take some positives from his own players’ errors. "Michael's pass-back was a bit soft and Michael held his hand up," Ferguson said, about Southampton’s goal. "It's great to see that, honest players like Michael saying: 'Sorry boss, sorry lads.' It's great."

Perplexingly blaming United’s lack of smoothness on a dry pitch, he admitted that they had been lucky to secure the three points. "If you look at it, in my experience when you are going for championships there's always a game when you say we were a bit lucky," he said, "and I think this was one of those nights."

United now face a run of fixtures against Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City, West Ham United, Reading and Sunderland, that could secure the Premier League title by Easter, although Ferguson warned against complacency. "Let's not fool ourselves into believing that we are now entering a phase against the lower teams that will present us with easy pickings. That would be a rubbish attitude."

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