Manchester United strolled to a comfortable 4-1 win over Fulham to secure their spot in the 5th round of the FA Cup yesterday.
The build-up to the game was dominated by Dimitar Berbatov's return to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving the Red Devils in the summer, but the Bulgarian centre-forward's presence quickly became a footnote as two goals from Javier Hernandez, a brilliant Wayne Rooney strike and a penalty from Ryan Giggs ensured Sir Alex Ferguson's side remain in the hunt for their first FA Cup trophy since 2004.
United's dominance was evident from the off as Rooney spurned a chance to put his side in the lead before referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot for an Aaron Hughes handball - all inside the first few minutes of the game.
Giggs duly dispatched the penalty, putting his side firmly in control with only his third goal of the season in all competitions.
If United were in the ascendency they were unable to get the second goal their dominance deserved, leaving Fulham in with a chance of hauling themselves back into the game.
A second penalty appeal for handball, this time against Damian Duff, was waved away by Clattenburg, while the sublime Rooney could have scored twice were it not for the excellence of Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.
Nani and Anderson also went close to doubling United's lead, but as the half-time whistle went with the scoreline still at 1-0, Martin Jol and his side could have been forgiven for thinking that a smash-and-grab victory may well have been on the cards.
After the break, Manchester United and Rooney in particular picked up where they left off, hammering the Fulham goal in search of the strike that would kill the tie off.
Rooney came close to doing just that, only to see his effort cleared off the line by Hughes - but not long after the England forward finally scored with a sublime goal befitting of his performance.
On 50 minutes, Anderson fizzed a ball into Rooney's feet as he charged through on the shoulder of the Fulham defence, before the former Everton man cut inside and hammered a low shot past the hapless Schwarzer.
That took Rooney’s tally to five in four appearances against the west London side – and the 27-year-old’s only complaint from a fine day at the office will be that he didn’t improve that record further.
His goal did seemingly open the floodgates for the home side however as two more followed in just over 15 minutes.
Hernandez bagged his first of the game little more than two minutes after Rooney's strike, with the Mexican placing the ball home after Rooney's deflected cross had fallen kindly into his path.
Hernandez added his second thanks to another fortuitous deflection that wrong-footed Schwarzer after Giggs had played him through on 66 minutes.
Hughes rounded off an eventful game by netting for the Cottagers with under 15 minutes remaining - but it was to have little bearing on a game dominated by the home side and Rooney in particular. The 5th round of the FA Cup beckons for Sir Alex Ferguson's men once more.
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