Man United off to winning start

MANCHESTAR: A 34th-minute Wayne Rooney finish was enough to earn Manchester United a 1-0 win over Birmingham City at Old Trafford today to get the champions off to a winning Premier League start.

Rooney was comfortably the most creative player on display in the lunchtime kick-off which opened both club’s respective campaigns and although United were missing Rio Ferdinand with a thigh complaint they shrugged off his absence to record a consummate victory.

United, who will be looking to win their fourth consecutive title this season, had by far the better opportunities in the opening exchanges as they seemed intent on proving the club still has attacking potential without Cristiano Ronaldo following his transfer to Real Madrid in June. The pace of the opening moments was frenetic as Dimitar Berbatov failed to make the most of a clear chance inside the box while Rooney also had a good opportunity from the rebound that was foiled by the committed Birmingham defence.

Following Berbatov’s effort, Rooney drove into the box with the ball but was muscled out by City as they threw themselves in the path of his effort. Shortly afterwards, Hart had to be on top form and at full stretch as a wonderful curling Rooney effort from 25 yards was destined for the top corner until the keeper leapt to punch over the bar.

Birmingham, to their credit, tried to break with the ball and create their own rare chances as James McFadden persevered down the left wing. But he rarely had a team-mate to choose from in the United box as the away side got most men behind the ball to protect their clean-sheet.

It was a policy that worked until Rooney finally scored. A goal had felt imminent as Paul Scholes, Rooney and Berbatov continued to probe threateningly around Birmingham’s penalty area and it arrived when Rooney headed a Nani cross onto the base of the post and then managed to tap the rebound over the line.

On Saturday, Arsenal hammered out an early title warning when

they crushed Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park. Elsewhere, Chelsea

came from behind to defeat Hull 2-1 while moneybags Manchester City beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0.

Brazilian midfielder Denilson put the Gunners ahead with a 26th-minute curling shot. Thomas Vermaelen headed in from a Robin van Persie free-kick and William Gallas nodded in from a Cesc Fabregas set-piece in the 41st. Fabregas made it 4-0 early in the second-half when he crowned a rapid, length of the field, counter-attack with a stylish finish before the Spaniard scored his second after being allowed to run free. Eduardo added a sixth two minutes from time before Louis Saha pulled one back for Everton.

Portsmouth were undone by Fulham 1-0, Wigan stunned Aston Villa 2-0 and Sunderland beat Bolton 1-0.