Hernandez double sees United through
Manchester United sauntered past Fulham 4-1 to book a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup. After his latest penalty miss, Rooney passed over spot kick duties to Ryan Giggs who took United's third-minute penalty. And, 20 years and three days after his first FA Cup goal, Giggs scored his 12th.
Rooney did not come alive until after the restart but once he had brutally fired home his tenth goal of the season, he quickly set up strike partner Javier Hernandez for the Mexican's 13th. Hernandez bagged another before Aaron Hughes' consolation, ensuring Robin van Persie could remain on the bench throughout.
The Red Devil's penalty woes reached a head ten days ago, when Rooney's effort in the replay win over West Ham went sailing over the bar. It was their fifth spot-kick miss of the season, Rooney's second, and his 10th overall as a Red Devil.
And evidently, decisive action had been taken. With van Persie on the bench, it was Giggs who strode straight into the area once referee Mark Clattenburg had spotted Hughes handling Rooney's corner. In more than two decades, the only times Giggs had missed in such situations were in shoot-outs. Though Mark Schwarzer got a hand to this one, the Australian was unable to keep it out.
The hosts appealed for a second penalty shortly after the first when Giggs' pass for Patrice Evra rolled off Damien Duff's arm. Clattenburg ruled this intervention accidental and Fulham's escape was complete when Schwarzer turned Rooney's shot onto the bar as the hosts pressed at the corner.
A neat move involving Anderson and Giggs presented Rooney with another chance, which Schwarzer blocked at his near post.
Fulham were almost exclusively bystanders to this one-sided game, with Dimitar Berbatov flickering only briefly. Most notable was the applause he received on his return to the club he served for four years was due to a brilliant piece of control on halfway.
Shortly afterwards, Sascha Riether drilled a long-range effort just wide reminding United that their place in the last 16 was not assured. Brazilian international Anderson set aside any worry, however, five minutes after the break with an delightful through-ball to Rooney who sent a ferocious shot flying past Schwarzer.
Hernandez brace secures safe passage
On United's next attack, Nani's trickery put Fulham's defence on the back foot before Rooney's cross ended up with Hernandez lashing home a close-range volley to extend the lead to three goals.
And midway through the half Hernandez had another, charging onto Giggs' pass before his shot deflected off Hughes and gave Schwarzer no chance. It was the Mexican's fifth goal in six games.
Not that everything went to plan for the hosts. Having kept faith with under-fire goalkeeper David de Gea, Ferguson would not have been happy that the keeper's goal should be breached on a routine corner. De Gea himself was not culpable but the ease with which Hughes rose at the near-post to steer home Giorgos Karagounis' corner was alarming for a side with only seven clean sheets all season.