United dominated the opening exchanges. Rooney found himself with time and space inside the visitors' area after Gibson's drive had ricocheted through to him, but Marcus Hahnemann saved the striker's low shot. Soon afterwards, the Wolves goalkeeper preserved parity again when he managed to block Rooney's flick from a Patrice Evra cross.
Wolves weathered the early storm, however, and could have taken an unlikely lead when Greg Halford's gargantuan throw caused havoc in the United area, only for George Friend to hook his effort wastefully over the bar from close range.
That scare survived, United's dominance of possession continued unabated. Wolves' disciplined approach, superbly marshalled by Michael Mancienne, required a patient, methodical mantra from the hosts, and it almost yielded dividends when Rooney swivelled inside a packed area and rolled a shot just past the upright, via a deflection. From the resulting corner, skipper Nemanja Vidic blazed over from 10 yards.
Just as a mood of frustration began to take a firm hold of the home support, a melee from another set-piece handed United the chance to forge ahead on the half-hour. Gibson's out-swinging corner seemed to be heading for Vidic, only for Ronald Zubar to brush the ball away from the Serbian with his hand. Referee Steve Bennett awarded the spot-kick, which Rooney powerfully hammered inside Hahnemann's right-hand post.