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United bounce back to close on Chelsea

Wayne Rooney wheels away in celebration after scoring Manchester United's first goal against Hull.
Wayne Rooney wheels away in celebration after scoring Manchester United's first goal against Hull.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester United move to within two points of English Premier League leaders Chelsea
  • Second-placed United bounce back from 3-0 defeat at Fulham with 3-1 win at lowly Hull
  • Wayne Rooney scores once and sets up up two goals after being at fault for equalizer
  • Captain Cesc Fabregas comes off bench to inspire Arsenal to 3-0 win over Aston Villa
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(CNN) -- Manchester United moved to within two points of English Premier League leaders as Wayne Rooney inspired a 3-1 win at Hull on Sunday, while Arsenal kept in touch with a 3-0 victory against fourth-placed Aston Villa.

United took advantage of Chelsea's dropping of two points with a 0-0 draw at Birmingham on Saturday, with Rooney scoring once and setting up two goals -- while also being at fault for Hull's second-half equalizer.

The injury-hit defending champions were boosted by the return of defenders Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown and Rafael Da Silva, meaning Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick could return to their usual midfield roles following the shock 3-0 defeat by Fulham last weekend.

Veteran Ryan Giggs and striker Dimitar Berbatov were also restored to the visitors' starting line-up, but it was relegation-threatened Hull should have taken the lead in the first half after weathering an early onslaught.

Brown appeared to bring down Richard Garcia but Alan Wiley -- refereeing his first United match since being criticized by Alex Ferguson after a 2-2 draw against Sunderland in October - waved away Hull's claims.

Seyi Olofinjana forced a fine save from United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and then the midfielder set up Stephen Hunt, who sidefooted wide of the post when he should have hit the target.

Thankfully we got the win, or I don't think the manager would have been too pleased with me
--Wayne Rooney

England striker Rooney broke the deadlock in the second minute of time added on to the first half when he ghosted in to touch home Fletcher's teasing low cross, which the Hull defense failed to deal with, and notched his 13th league goal this season.

However, Hull were rewarded for their enterprising approach with a 58th-minute penalty from Craig Fagan, as Da Silva blatantly pushed United States striker Jozy Altidore from behind.

Rooney had been at fault as his poor backpass allowed Fagan the chance to cross to his fellow frontman, but he made amends in the 73rd minute.

Rooney, United's key player since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, made a strong run to collect a slide-rule pass from Giggs and then Hull defender Andy Dawson had no choice but to deflect the resulting low cross from the right into his own net, with substitute Park Ji-Sung lurking unmarked behind him.

Berbatov then wrapped up the victory with eight minutes to play when Rooney's delightful cross-field pass through the legs of Hull defender Kamil Zayatte gave him a gift-wrapped chance to score and end his recent barren run.

"When they got the equalizer it was a mistake by myself and thankfully we got the win, or I don't think the manager would have been too pleased with me," Rooney said.

"It wasn't a nice feeling. I didn't want to let the lads down, and at the time it looked like that, but it happens and we got the win in the end."

Arsenal had briefly taken second place in the table with a convincing victory over Champions League hopefuls Aston Villa, as captain Cesc Fabregas came off the bench in the second half to score the opening two goals before going off injured.

I feel that I did the right thing. I knew before the game that if it was really needed, I would put him on
--Arsene Wenger on Cesc Fabregas

The Spain midfielder was included in the squad despite his hamstring problem, but turned the game with a superb free-kick in the 65th minute soon after coming on, getting up to beat goalkeeper Brad Friedel with a flat, curling strike after being brought down by Richard Dunne.

The 22-year-old doubled the lead with nine minutes to play on the counter-attack as fellow substitute Theo Walcott touched a long ball from full-back Armand Traore into his path.

However, Fabregas had to limp off in the closing stages before Abou Diaby killed off Villa with a cool, curling effort past Friedel in time added on, and may now miss Wednesday's trip to bottom club Portsmouth.

"We do not know yet if it is a recurrence of the pull or just scar tissue," said manager Arsene Wenger. "If it is scar tissue then it is a few days, but if it is a reoccurrence then it is three weeks.

"I feel that I did the right thing, and would do it again. I put him on the bench and I knew before the game that if it was really needed, I would put him on.

"Had we been 1-0 up, I would not have done it, but at the end of the day you do what you think will win the game."

Villa have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool this season, and won at Arsenal last season.

The defeat left Martin O'Neill's side three points behind Arsenal, who have played one fewer game than all their rivals, and one ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham -- who drew 0-0 at Fulham on Saturday.