Rooney, having missed his most recent penalty in the third round win over West Ham, stepped aside for Giggs to steer home from the spot, despite Schwarzer’s valiant attempts to save.
Fulham’s Australian stopper was kept busy thereafter, largely by Rooney and Nani, making only his second start since returning from injury. The Portuguese winger brought a sharp stop from Schwarzer at his near post, then his cross was controlled and turned goalwards by Rooney, whose shot was smuggled up onto the bar by Schwarzer.
Between those efforts, Damien Duff nervously contemplated his fate after nudging Giggs’ pass out of play with his forearm while deep inside his own area, only for Clattenburg to contentiously wave play on.
It appeared only a matter of time before United’s second goal arrived, and Nani appeared determined to grab it. The winger’s snapshot thudded straight into Schwarzer’s midriff, and seconds later his curling effort skirted narrowly wide of the Australian’s woodwork. A well-worked United counter then culminated in Rooney stabbing a close-range effort towards the near post, only to see Schwarzer brilliantly repel it.
Such that dominance, the precariousness of the Reds’ lead was underlined a minute later. Fulham’s first meaningful attack – started by breathtaking control from ex-Red Dimitar Berbatov, recipient of a warm reception from the home support – resulted in a 25-yard effort from Sascha Riether skidding narrowly by De Gea’s far post, and the interval arrived without further incident and with the outcome far from assured.
If Sir Alex’s interval message to his players hammered home the need to quickly put the tie to bed, it certainly registered. Little more