The Reds were rampant, swarming forward and pinning a beleaguered Birmingham powerlessly into their own half with a series of rapid attacks and corners. United are not famed for being dangerous from corner kicks, but Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, John O’Shea and Dimitar Berbatov all pose a threat. But it was United's quick-fire passing and speed of movement that McLeish’s side could not contain.
Michael Carrick was forced off after 25 minutes, the midfielder unable to recover from an earlier tackle in which Alexander Hleb followed through with his studs up and caught him on the ankle. Darron Gibson replaced him, but not even a change in personnel disrupted United’s flow. A breakaway attack after the half-hour mark involving Anderson, Rooney and then Berbatov ended with the Bulgarian firing a shot through Roger Johnson’s legs and past a helpless Ben Foster. A minute later Berbatov could have had a hat-trick, but his toe-poked effort nestled the wrong side of the post.
Gibson fizzed a shot in from 20 yards that Foster struggled to hold on 39 minutes and a minute later Giggs’ goal-bound effort deflected wide via a touch from Jordan Mutch. But the Welshman soon got his name on the scoresheet with the pick of the first-half goals. In the second minute of added time, Berbatov won possession with a sliding tackle and exchanged passes with Rooney, who crossed brilliantly for Giggs to steer a shot into the roof of the net, capping an exceptional first 45 minutes.
Within two minutes of the restart, the excellent Rooney should have made it four. Nani twisted and turned to create space for a left-footed cross, but Rooney directed his header just wide of the post. United’s fourth arrived on 53 minutes with the same triumvirate that produced the third; Rooney expertly controlled Edwin van der Sar's sky-high clearance and slipped a pass to Giggs; he squared the ball to Berbatov, who sealed his hat-trick by