Rooney (left) kept his cool and picked his spot to score United's second
By Phil Dawkes
Three second-half goals secured a hard-fought win for Manchester United against a spirited Burnley.
The Clarets could have taken the lead early on but David Nugent fluffed a good chance when through on goal.
And Dimitar Berbatov made them pay on 64 minutes with a deflected effort before Wayne Rooney dispatched a low drive after Berbatov's shot was saved.
Substitute Mame Diouf headed Antonio Valencia's cross over the onrushing Brian Jensen to complete the scoring.
The win means United remain a point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, who hammered Sunderland 7-2 at Stamford Bridge.
While the final 20 minutes of the game were comfortable for Sir Alex Ferguson's team, for the preceding 70 they were frustrated by a determined visiting side.
New Burnley boss Brian Laws would undoubtedly have preferred an easier first test of his reign.
The Clarets may have beaten United at Turf Moor earlier in the season but the man who masterminded that result, Owen Coyle, is now Bolton manager and this result means they have failed to improve upon a record of only one away point this season.
We took our chances - Phelan
Having only been in charge for three days, it is too soon to judge Laws but despite the final result he will be pleased with the application shown by his side.
They worked hard to stifle United's attack while also producing some incisive play of their own to fashion a number of openings on the counter-attack.
It was from one such break that the visitors should have taken the lead within the first 10 minutes.
Nugent broke free down the right and played it across to two Burnley players, one of which was Steven Fletcher, exploiting a lack of home defenders and bearing down on goal, but he flashed his shot across goal and wide.
The focus given this week to the crisis at Liverpool has somewhat taken the heat off United, who have courted criticism since their FA Cup third round defeat by Leeds, followed by a draw at Birmingham last time out.
Unsurprisingly, they dominated possession and posed the greater attacking threat but they looked a side short of confidence and too often players were indecisive when it came to providing a final ball.
When this was provided the shooter fluffed their effort, with Nani and Berbatov chief culprits with miscued attempts at goal.
Portuguese midfielder Nani drew a good save from Brian Jensen in the Burnley goal with a spectacular overhead kick effort late in the half, but this was as close as the home side came to scoring before the break.
The start of the second half picked up where the first had left off with United pressing but making little inroads.
Jensen was able to comfortably save a header from Paul Scholes - looking to score his 100th Premier League goal - and a Nani long-range shot.
Rooney's workrate alone made him the most likely to fashion something for the home side and just before the hour he almost did just that.
Laws praises Burnley performance despite loss
Patrice Evra cut into the box on the right and teed up the England striker but he snatched at the shot and hit it over.
Rooney's strike partner Berbatov had a wonderful chance to give United the lead minutes later when he skilfully pulled the ball down from an Valencia pass and turning on goal but his shot from 10 yards was less impressive, striking the post and going wide.
In response, Burnley gave further warning of their threat when Chris Eagles carried the ball into the United half and found Nugent, who held off the challenge of Jonny Evans but was unable to get his shot on target, instead poking it harmlessly wide.
Having survived that scare and with Burnley in the ascendancy, United took the lead.
Rooney picked up the ball on the edge of the box before finding Berbatov who held off Michael Duff and digging out a shot that found its way past Jensen via a deflection from the defender.
Their frustration lifted, United doubled their lead shortly after when Rooney collected following a Jensen save from Berbatov, delayed his shot before finding the bottom corner with a well-placed side-foot effort.
Despite this double blow Burnley continued to work hard and almost snatched a lifeline in the 83rd minute when Steven Thompson rose to head at goal but his effort struck the post and went wide.
Cruelly, the visitors conceded a third in injury time when Valencia's long ball forward found substitute Diouf whose cute header looped over Jensen and in.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:
"We could have been embarrassed.
"We had a number of opportunities to punish them in the final third but there was a bit of nervousness and anxiety about our game.
"You need a goal to open teams up in matches like that, although while they will probably feel 3-0 was unfair, I didn't believe it was too unjust."
Burnley manager Brian Laws:
"If you look at key moments in games we should have taken the lead when Nugent went through.
"When you come to places like this you have got to take your chances.
"I don't there are many teams who come to Manchester United and have the chances we had."
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