Damien Duff had fired the Cottagers into a third-minute lead, only for van Persie to quickly sweep home a magnificent leveller. Close-range finishes from Kagawa and Rafael had the Reds in command by the break, though an unfortunate second-half own-goal from Nemanja Vidic to ensure a nervy end to the afternoon for the hosts, who also lost Wayne Rooney to a badly gashed leg.
Sir Alex Ferguson made four changes to the side edged out in Monday’s defeat at Everton, with Rooney, Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck dropping to the bench while Nani missed the squad entirely. In their stead, van Persie, Anderson, Rafael and Ashley Young started.
While blessed with myriad attacking options, the Reds’ ranks were still short on defensive numbers. Though Jonny Evans was fit enough to take his place on the bench, Michael Carrick again continued in central defence alongside Nemanja Vidic, who made his first Old Trafford outing since November 2011.
The skipper’s homecoming began in dreadful fashion as Fulham forged ahead after little more than two minutes. Rafael slipped while in possession, allowing Mladen Petric to draw Carrick into a foul on the edge of the Reds’ area, close to the byline. Rather than shoot or fire a cross into the cluster of bodies, Bryan Ruiz craftily rolled a square ball to Damien Duff, who shrugged off Young’s attentions to slot a simple finish past David De Gea.
United’s response was positive. Antonio Valencia, restored to his regular role as a winger after Rafael’s reinstatement, fired a cross behind Van