Belfast Telegraph

Rooney hat-trick stuns Hammers

Wayne Rooney scored a dramatic hat-trick as Manchester United produced another sensational late comeback to beat West Ham 4-2 and edge closer to the Barclays Premier League title.

United appeared certain to open the door for Arsenal and Chelsea when their defence went into meltdown, gifting the Hammers two first-half penalties which Mark Noble duly dispatched.

But the leaders were rewarded for going for broke in the second half, Rooney starting the fightback with just 25 minutes remaining, completing his 14-minute treble from the spot before substitute Javier Hernandez sealed the points.

The result moved United eight points clear ahead of Arsenal and Chelsea before their respective games, while dragging West Ham back into the drop zone on goal difference.

Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson spent the build-up to the game bemoaning refereeing decisions he claimed had gone against his side this season. But United got the rub of the green with returning captain Nemanja Vidic lucky to stay on the field when it was still 2-0.

Noble beat Tomasz Kuszczak from the spot in the 12th minute after Patrice Evra had been penalised for handball and the Hammers midfielder doubled his side's lead 14 minutes later after Carlton Cole had been fouled by Vidic.

United went for broke in the 64th minute when Dimitar Berbatov replaced Ji-Sung Park and they were awarded a free-kick, which saw them finally get back in the game as Rooney curled home from 25 yards.

Rooney came to the rescue again when Antonio Valencia's ball found him on the edge of the box and West Ham's defence allowed him to take a touch and fire low across Robert Green.

United were awarded a penalty of their own when Matthew Upson handled. While the Hammers opposed the decision Rooney stepped up to complete his hat-trick before Hernandez pounced on a piece of terrible defending six minutes from time to turn in a cross.

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