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 than a minute of the second period had passed when Rooney’s close-range effort was cleared off the line by Hughes, but the England striker’s wait for a goal wouldn’t last another four minutes.
Anderson, whose string-pulling had been a fruitful first half outlet, released Rooney with a subtle angled pass which allowed the striker to race towards goal, cut inside Hughes’ challenge and bash home a left-footed finish which hurtled past Schwarzer.
The game’s second goal had a decisive air about it, and so it proved as Fulham’s resistance crumbled and two quickly became three. Nani’s cross to Chicharito was desperately cleared by Hughes, and the Portuguese kept play alive long enough to find Rooney, then helped on the striker’s low cross for Chicharito to hook a first-time finish inside Schwarzer’s post.
After a brief lull in proceedings as both managers reshuffled - Hugo Rodallega replacing Duff for Fulham, while Michael Carrick's 300th Reds appearance was cut short by Paul Scholes - before United once again cranked up the pressure.
Sure enough, a fourth goal duly followed. Phil Jones' dominant header found Giggs, whose threaded through-ball released Chicharito to advance, cut inside and unleash a shot which nicked Hughes, wrong-footed Schwarzer and nestled in the Stretford End goal.
Fulham, to their credit, salvaged a modicum of pride when Hughes escaped Rooney's attentions to powerfully head Ashkan Dejagah's corner past De Gea, ending the hosts' hopes of registering a fourth clean sheet in six games.
United might have mustered a rapid response when substitute Shinji Kagawa fashioned space on the edge of the Fulham area, but the Japanese playmaker skied his effort over the bar. Rooney also had a late fifth ruled out for a perceived foul by Chicharito, but the decision had little bearing on a