Manchester, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Wayne Rooney scored a pair of second-half goals on Saturday as Manchester United cruised to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Sunderland at Old Trafford.
With fellow striker Robin van Persie picking up an injury in last week's loss against Swansea City, United manager Louis van Gaal deployed Radamel Falcao in the No. 9 role with captain Rooney playing in an attacking midfield spot.
Rooney found the back of the net in the 66th and 85th minutes to lift United into third place in the Premier League on 50 points, two ahead of Arsenal and five behind rivals Manchester City, both of which play on Sunday.
The Sunderland defense held firm and kept United off the score sheet in the first half, but the Red Devils broke the deadlock in the 66th minute when Falcao broke free into the penalty area and was hacked down by Sunderland defender Wes Brown, resulting in a penalty for United and a straight red card to Brown.
Rooney entered the match in a bit of a slump as he had gone eight straight contests without a goal, but confidently headed to the spot and blasted his penalty low into the left corner with pace, leaving Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon with no chance to make a save.
Rooney completed his double five minutes from time when he was in the correct spot in front of goal to smash home a rebound effort to seal an important three points for Van Gaal's side.
For Sunderland, the defeat keeps the Black Cats in 16th place in the Premier League with 25 points, just three clear of the bottom three.
Elsewhere in the Premier League on Saturday, Crystal Palace maintained its unbeaten away record under manager Alan Pardew on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park.
The Eagles opened the scoring through Glen Murray in the 41st minute and Scott Dann doubled the advantage early in the second half, while Murray added a second goal in the 63rd minute.
The Hammers pulled one back in the 76th minute through Enner Valencia after Murray was sent off for a second yellow-card offense, but the hosts were unable to salvage anything as the club's dream of a top-four finish slipped further out of reach.
Swansea City claimed its second consecutive win in league play on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Burnley thanks to an own goal by Burnley defender Kieran Trippier.
Newcastle United rebounded from a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last week with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa at St. James' Park. Papiss Cisse collected the only goal of the match in the 37th minute.
Peter Crouch's tally 18 minutes from time held up as the winner to give Stoke City a 1-0 result over Hull City, while Saturday's final fixture saw West Bromwich Albion knock off Southampton, 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second minute of play from Saido Berahino.