Premier League – Berbatov bags five as United thrash Rovers

Manchester United destroyed Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford with a 7-1 victory that sends them to the top of the Premier League table.

Wayne Rooney made his first league start for the club in two months, but it was Dimitar Berbatov who answered his own critics emphatically by scoring five goals to end his 10-match scoring drought.

Berbatov claimed a brace in the first half – with Park Ji-sung adding another before the break – before the Bulgarian netted three more in the second half, with Nani also getting on the scoresheet.

The drubbing sends United back above Arsenal – who were briefly top following their earlier win at Aston Villa – and also Chelsea, who can return to the summit when they travel to Newcastle on Sunday.

United were ahead inside two minutes when Blackburn failed to clear their lines and Nani’s cross was steered skilfully past Paul Robinson by Berbatov. It was the Bulgarian’s first goal in 11 matches, since his hat-trick against Liverpool back in September.

Rooney and Berbatov continuously linked up well as United thoroughly dominated proceedings, and the inevitable second came midway through the half.

Park surged forward before finding Rooney on the edge of the D, and the England striker played a perfectly-weighted return pass into the Korean’s path for him to lift a delightful finish over Robinson.

Rovers boss Sam Allardyce replaced the poor Herold Goulon with David Hoillett soon after, but the match was over as a contest when Berbatov gratefully received Pascal Chimbonda’s woefully underhit back pass to fire in his second and United’s third in the 27th minute.

Berbatov could have claimed his hat-trick just before the break when his mesmeric dribble into the area was halted by Michel Salgado’s block, but referee Mark Clattenburg denied the appeals and the Spanish defender, already on a yellow card, stayed on the pitch.

As things panned out after the break, Salgado may wish he had been given his marching orders.

Just as he scored early in the first half, Berbatov scored again two minutes after the restart when he played a delightful ball out to Nani with the outside of his boot and continued his run. Nani teed Berbatov up with a square pass that he fired into the top corner to claim his hat-trick.

Nani then claimed one of his own right from the kick-off when he cut inside and curled a great finish into the far top corner.

The Portuguese was in electric form on the right wing, and he almost laid a chance on a plate for Rooney after another searing run, but Robinson was off his line to block the pass along the edge of the six-yard box.

Berbatov joined Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe and former United striker Andy Cole in the club of men to score five goals in a single Premier League match when, after lashing the loose ball into the net after a cross rebounded off Park, he had an attempted pass blocked by Ryan Nelsen which bounced back to him, and he finished from a tight angle with aplomb.

Christopher Samba scored a consolation goal for Rovers with a header from Josh Morris‘s cross after hitting the bar seconds earlier, before Berbatov was denied becoming the first player to grab a six goals in a Premier League match when Robinson saved his header late on.

That was one of only two shots on target that United did not convert in an awesome display that extended their unbeaten season in fearsome fashion.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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