Rooney was passed over in favour of Ryan Giggs to take United's third-minute spot-kick 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 10th goal of the season, he quickly set up strike partner Javier Hernandez for the Mexican's 13th. Hernandez bagged another before Aaron Hughes' consolation.
With Robin van Persie on the bench, it was Giggs who strode straight into the area once Mark Clattenburg had spotted Hughes handling Rooney's corner. Though Mark Schwarzer got a hand to this one, the Australian was unable to keep it out.
The hosts should have had another when Giggs' pass for Patrice Evra rolled off Damien Duff's arm. Inexplicably, 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.
Fulham were almost exclusively bystanders to this one-sided game, with Dimitar Berbatov flickering only briefly, and then 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, but United were pulling away within five minutes of the restart. Anderson deserved immense credit for his brilliant through-ball. But the goal clearly meant something to Rooney, who turned inside Hughes then sent a ferocious shot flying past Schwarzer.
On United's next attack, Nani's trickery put Fulham's defence on the back foot before Rooney's cross ended up with Hernandez, who lashed home a close-range volley. 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, underlining the fact United are not quite as reliant on Van Persie as some people seem to think but all did not go to plan for the hosts. Having kept faith with under-fire David de Gea, Ferguson would not have been happy that the keeper's goal should be breached at 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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ryan Giggs
- Aaron Hughes
- Mark Schwarzer