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Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010

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Rule Britannia: Manchester United's Patrice Evra races away from Stoke's Matthew Etherington at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday. AP PHOTO

Hernandez fills gap as United tops Stoke

LONDON (AP) Javier Hernandez filled in for the injured Wayne Rooney in style Sunday, scoring twice to lift Manchester United into a three-way tie for second place in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Stoke.

Hernandez's spectacular backward header and late winner took United to 17 points, the same as Arsenal and Manchester City.

Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner scored to give Arsenal a 3-0 win at 10-man Manchester City to join its opponent five points behind leader Chelsea.

Liverpool beat Blackburn 2-1 in Sunday's other game but remains in the relegation zone.

Hernandez won the match for United in the 86th minute with a close-range tap in but his opening goal was far more memorable. The Mexico striker leaped to flick the ball with the back of his head past Thomas Sorensen before the goalkeeper could move.

"I jumped and saw the ball behind me and tried to head it towards the goal," Hernandez said. "I don't remember doing it in training. It's a good goal but the most important thing is the result."

It was United's second victory in a week dominated by wrangles over Rooney's future.

The England striker, who missed Sunday's match and Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League win over Bursaspor because of an ankle injury, signed a new five-year contract Friday just days after stating publicly that he wanted to leave because United was no longer signing high-profile players.

But Hernandez showed United is not yet short of world-class talent.

"Here there are no heroes," Hernandez said. "It is about the team."

United had looked set to fall seven points behind defending champion Chelsea, which beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 on Saturday, when substitute Tuncay Sanli curled in a 81st-minute equalizer from just inside the area — Stoke's first Premier League goal against the Red Devils.

But Hernandez tapped in Patrice Evra's deflected cross, after Dimitar Berbatov had set up the fullback with a neat pass, to take his tally to five goals since joining in the summer.

Fergie blames agent

MANCHESTER , England (AP) Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has cleared Wayne Rooney of any blame for last week's uncertainty over his future at the club.

After watching his team move up to third place in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Stoke on the injured Rooney's 25th birthday, Ferguson said that player agents were solely to blame when players agitate for a transfer.

Rooney seemed ready to leave Old Trafford when he questioned the club's ability to sign leading players and the club announced that he had refused to sign a new contract.

But the England striker eventually signed a new five-year contract to replace a deal that was set to expire at the end of next season, reportedly more than doubling his previous salary of £90,000 ($141,650) a week.

"There are always issues to deal with," Ferguson said. "When your top players come towards the end of their contracts you have to do something to get them a new one. They are all the same. You have to deal with agents of this world today, which is difficult.

"The players are no problem. There is no problem with players. Some agents are difficult."

Coach escapes ax

ROTTERDAM , Netherlands (AP) Feyenoord says it is sticking with coach Mario Been despite the team's 10-0 thrashing by PSV Eindhoven.

League leader PSV scored eight second half goals on Sunday to condemn Feyenoord to its worst defeat in club history and underscore how far the once-powerful Rotterdam club has fallen in recent years.

Feyenoord now stands 15th in the 18-team Dutch Eredivisie with just two wins in 10 matches this season.



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