Forum Spin Doctor
LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Wayne Rooney scored twice as Manchester United crushed Fulham 5-1 on Sunday while champions Chelsea began their Premier League title defence with a 3-0 home win over Manchester City.
The two other probable title contenders, Arsenal and Liverpool, were both held 1-1 on Saturday. Villa spoilt Arsenal's first match at their new Emirates stadium and Liverpool needed a penalty equaliser to deny promoted Sheffield United a first-day win at Bramall Lane.
On Sunday City's Italian striker Bernardo Corradi was sent off just past the hour for a late tackle on Michael Essien, having earlier been booked for a late challenge on Paulo Ferreira.
Defender John Terry followed his first goal as England captain in midweek by heading home Arjen Robben's curling left-footed free kick from the right to put Chelsea ahead in the 11th minute.
Terry's England colleague Frank Lampard, who also scored in the 4-0 win over Greece, struck the second in the 25th, taking a square ball from Essien and hitting a low shot that took a slight deflection off Richard Dunne.
Striker Didier Drogba added a late third for Chelsea with a diving header from Wayne Bridge's low cross from the left.
United were even more impressive as they tore Fulham to shreds in a devastating opening burst that brought them four goals in the first 12 minutes.
Rooney, putting to the back of his mind the three-match suspension hanging over him, scored United's third in the 16th minute and rounded off the scoring just past the hour from defender Wes Brown's cross.
The England striker will start a three-match ban on Aug. 23 after being sent off during a pre-season tournament in Amsterdam.
France's Louis Saha, relishing the confidence of manager Alex Ferguson who off-loaded Ruud van Nistelrooy, his rival for the central striker's role, headed the seventh-minute opener from Ryan Giggs's fine cross for his third goal against his ex-club.
Defender Ian Pearce turned the second into his own net in the 14th trying to prevent Saha's pass from finding Rooney.
Rooney netted the rebound after keeper Antti Niemi saved a Saha shot in the 16th and the England striker's fine ball to the far post allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to volley home the fourth from a tight angle three minutes later.
The young pair's embrace after Ronaldo's goal showed they had put behind them the controversy over the Portuguese player's involvement in Rooney's sending off during England's loss to Portugal on penalties in the World Cup quarter-finals.
"It's proved that people who have been saying things about us don't know either of us," Rooney told Sky Sports. "We let our football do the talking and I thought Cristiano was brilliant and he scored a great goal.
"Getting four goals in the first 20 minutes helped us relax a bit," he said. "We wanted to get about them early on and we did that and managed to get four goals. I'm delighted to have scored two and it's great to create goals as well."
Fulham, whose defending was ragged, pulled one back to make the halftime score 4-1 when Heidar Helguson's shot from the edge of the box was deflected by defender Rio Ferdinand into his own net over goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.