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.
Having conceded the penalty, the Guadeloupian defender almost atoned for his error with a rampaging run down the right flank, only for his pull-back to evade everybody inside the United area. Zubar did have a role to play in the game's next goal, just before half-time, by failing to stop Vidic.
As Gibson's set-piece swung out, the Serbian stole a yard on Zubar and rose to thunder home a header which squirmed under Hahnemann and nestled just inside the post. The American did offer some slight redemption in the final act of the half as he denied Gabriel Obertan a maiden goal with a smart stop, but there was no doubting his relative culpability for what would ultimately prove the killer goal.