Rampant Ruud sinks Fulham
By Paul Higham
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Sir Alex Ferguson's men last topped the table a year ago and they finally returned to the summit thanks to the in-form Dutchman who had looked on his game throughout the 90 minutes at Old Trafford.
An organised Fulham more than held their own until Martin Djetou gave away a needless spot-kick a minute before the break to hand van Nistelrooy his first of the afternoon from the penalty spot.
The former PSV Eindhoven man was in rampant form and scored superb second before a deflected third wrapped up a great day at the office for van Nistelrooy, and piled more pressure on Arsene Wenger's Gunners.
United started brightly and Andy Melville was forced to clear off the line after Maik Taylor had spilled a cross under pressure from van Nistelrooy.
Jean Tigana's side came back into the game and Martin Djetou was unlucky to hit the bar from the edge of the box after 25 minutes when Steed Malbranque had done excellently on the left to set him up for the shot.
Djetou was then adjudged to have fouled Ole Gunnar Solksjaer inside the box by referee Steve Bennett, and Ruud van Nistelrooy stroked home the penalty to send United ahead a minute before the interval.
The Dutch striker had looked lively all game after his midweek rest and scored a fantastic second goal on 68 minutes when he picked the ball up on halfway and raced past Djetou and Melville into the box before sliding the ball past Taylor to send a record Premiership crowd wild at Old Trafford.
Van Nistelrooy completed his hat-trick a minute before the end when his weak effort from a Giggs cross found its way into the back of the net from a Jon Harley deflection.
The result send Sir Alex Ferguson's men to the top of The Premiership by a point from Arsenal, who will now be under severe pressure when they face Everton at Highbury on Sunday.
Click below for match summary:
Manchester United v Fulham