| Nistelrooy: Hattrick floors Fulham London, March 22 (Reuters): A Ruud van Nistelrooy hattrick fired Manchester United to a 3-0 victory over Fulham and top spot in the Premier League for the first time in a year on Saturday.
The Dutchman converted a penalty just before half-time and added two more in the second half to lift Alex Ferguson’s side a point clear of champions Arsenal.
The convincing win at a sunlit Old Trafford gave United 64 points while Arsenal, who play Everton at Highbury on Sunday, have 63 and Newcastle United, who take on Blackburn Rovers, are on 58.
Asked how it felt to be top of the table, Ferguson said: “It’s where you want to be and comes at an important part of the season. I hope we can stay there — I think we’ve a good chance.
“The players’ character is helping and you saw that today. There was good determination and resilience about them.
“The important thing for us is to do our job and I think they’re doing that well now... We’re certainly not favourites, but we’ve got a good chance.”
Van Nistelrooy converted his spot-kick after Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solkjaer was hauled down by French defender Martin Djetou.
The Dutchman sprinted away for his second in the 68th minute, beating three Fulham men before slotting past keeper Maik Taylor, and brought up his hattrick in the 90th minute with a deflected shot from a pinpoint Ryan Giggs cross.
“Saturday’s like this — with the atmosphere, the weather and the pitch — it was absolutely tremendous to play,” said van Nistelrooy. “And with the result, and for me personally, it made it a hell of a good day.”
West Bromwich Albion look certain to be relegated after substitute Geoff Horsfield’s strike in the fourth minute of stoppage time condemned them to a 1-0 defeat at Birmingham City in the Midlands derby earlier on Saturday.
West Brom stay second from bottom on 21 points and risk being cut further adrift by West Ham United (27), who are at home to bottom club Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers (29).