United’s new number two soon had the ball in the net again, however, and this time there was no reprieve for the Cottagers. Another spell of pressure from the Reds culminated in Young stabbing a left-footed cross to the back post, where Rafael had peeled away from Petric to head the ball inside Schwarzer’s near post.
In keeping with a pulsating game, Fulham still had time to fashion another opening before the break. Indeed, they mustered four efforts in five frantic seconds as Evra bravely blocked Petric’s acrobatic effort, De Gea padded away Duff’s follow-up and then brilliantly deflected Petric’s shot against the underside of the bar with his legs, before Ruiz blazed the ball high into the Stretford End.
After making such a nightmarish start to the first half, United began the second period in more alert fashion. Valencia’s cross almost provided van Persie with a tap-in and Young appealed for a penalty after tangling with Riether, then brought a fine block from Aaron Hughes after latching onto van Persie’s through-ball.
The Dutchman curled in a fabulous in-swinging cross which Rafael headed over the bar, before Fulham reduced the arrears in bizarre circumstances. Matthew Briggs clipped in a high cross from the left which De Gea, Vidic and Petric all went for, with the Fulham striker seemingly nudging the United stopper as the ball hit Vidic’s heel and trickled over the line.
As nerves began to grip the home support, Rooney and Welbeck were sent on to replace Kagawa and Young, but Fulham almost pulled level immediately. De Gea first tipped Moussa Dembele's swerving drive over the bar, then from the ensuing corner produced a brilliant reaction stop from the same player.
Schwarzer emulated those heroics by flicking over Rafael's fizzing 20-yard effort as the Reds sought to safeguard victory. Sir Alex freshened up his