MANCHESTER // There was an ominous element to Manchester United's fifth successive win and, for their rivals, the language that followed was equally alarming. Sir Alex Ferguson's men have given their title challengers a head start, but they have now acquired a menacing momentum. Few have greater impetus than Wayne Rooney, whose last six games have yielded eight goals and whose words produced a warning. "I know I can play better," he insisted.
A reluctance to accept praise is a sign of a perfectionist. Rooney is, most observers agree, in the form of his life. "Possibly," is the closest he gets to agreement. An eventual scoreline of 4-0 suggested a rout but West Brom-wich Albion resisted bravely for almost an hour, before being overwhelmed once Rooney made the breakthrough. But, deflecting plaudits again, he highlighted Dimitar Berbatov's contribution.
Theirs is an alliance of opposites, Rooney's endless running contrasting with Berbatov's economical movement. The Bulgarian supplied the Englishman for his goal, piercing the Albion defence with a precise pass. While Rooney provides vitality to the United attack, Berbatov supplies the shape and United appreciate having a focal point in their forward line. Rooney added: "He's brilliant, he holds the ball up really well and we can get runners off him, as you've seen with my first goal.
"He's only going to get better at this club. He's been here five or six games now and he's getting better each game." "Our partnership is improving," added his costlier strike partner, aiming for an instinctive union. "We're constantly working at it on the training ground, trying to understand each other without even looking." Berbatov himself scored United's third goal, sandwiched by a pair from their two Portuguese wingers.
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani benefited from Rooney's supply line, his passing completing a stellar display. With Carlos Tevez unused and unlikely to start against Celtic tomorrow, it was a reminder how swiftly situations can be reversed. The Argentine was United's player of the month in August, when Rooney's unstinting efforts took him further and further from goal and into a state of frustrating impotence. Now it appears he cannot stop scoring.