Some matches are over before they even start, and Manchester United enjoy quite a lot of these at home. There was nothing standing in its way of making it into the fifth round, as Ryan Giggs scored before all the fans too their seats, paving the way for the Wayne Rooney and Chicharito show.
Robin van Persie got to rest for the entire 90 minutes for once; there was no need for him. A clear hand ball by Aaron Hughes set the stage for Ryan Giggs to take over spot kick duties for Wayne Rooney, who has simply missed too many times this season. Robin van Persie will probably claim those back when he plays in the lineup, but it seems Alex Ferguson has had enough of Rooney’s missed chances.
The rest was all United streaming the pitch until they pounded Fulham into submission. Instead of pulling back after a goal or two, there was no relent in the Red Devils until it was 4-0. Maybe it was the hunger of some players to prove their worth; maybe it was also the very poor defending from the visitors, who did manage to get a goal (without any consolation for it) as United decided to fall back in the final minutes.
Who was hungry? Anderson, getting a chance in the lineup next to Michael Carrick. Right now, that spot is reserved for Tom Cleverley, but as Alex Ferguson tries to make something out of the Brazilian midfielder for the who-can-count time, these kind of efforts from him, showing his ability to push forward along with his passing skills, might be the thing that brings him back to a more regular routine of football.
Nani was another player who got his chance, playing on the right wing, where he is always more dangerous than anywhere else he might be positioned. He wasn’t at his best; it’s hard without regular playing time. But when he did touch the ball the same flashes of brilliance where there. Few players in the world can do what Nani can; the problem is that few also have the ego that gets in his way of doing things the right way just as often.
Wayne Rooney wasn’t hurt by losing his penalty-takin duties; instead it energized him for another wonderful all-around performance, that should have ended with more than one goal, taking his tally up to 10 this season in all competitions, something long overdue. Only after his second goal did Fulham completely break, and Chicharito had much more freedom to operate in the box, scoring one goal after a long possession sequence which Fulham couldn’t break up despite having the numerical advantage, partially due to Hernandez being offside on one of the passes. The second goal, his 14th this season, needed a lucky bounce to get in.
At Old Trafford, at United’s current form, no matter who’s playing in the defense, Fulham are no match for the league leaders. No need for “heroics” like their match against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Good enough to last the title race? As long as Van Persie is in form, probably.