When Phil Jones was covered in mud and on a yellow card after four minutes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might have feared the worst.
Tranmere had their tails up on a pitch that was weathered if being generous to the surface.
It felt like a proper FA Cup tie at a lively Prenton Park.
But 12 minutes later and United’s name was already in the draw for the fifth round.
This was hardly Solskjaer’s Mark Robins moment, whose goal is famed for saving Sir Alex Ferguson’s job when the Scot was under pressure early in his Old Trafford career.
But it was at least some heat off the manager as Manchester United thrashed Tranmere in a confidence booster ahead of the task of overturning a 3-1 League Cup semi-final deficit against Manchester City.
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When Harry Maguire fired in from 20 yards in the 10th minute you knew there was going to be no shock here.
Diogo Dalot and Jesse Lingard ended the Cup tie in the next six minutes.
And when Phil Jones got his first goal since 2014 then this was certainly United’s day.
Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood scored either side of the break to complete the rout.
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It was easy long before the end but this was set up to be a tricky trip to Tranmere.
After a midweek defeat by Burnley at home on the back of a loss to bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield, the mood at United has been all doom and gloom.
The anger is directed at chief executive Ed Woodward and Glazer family, the club’s American owners, for the mismanagement of the club.
Solskjaer being a club legend has given him some breathing space as boss but defeat here and then it would have been torrid for the Norwegian.
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Any fears of that were vanished when Maguire waltzed forward early on and delivered a finish a striker would be proud of as he powered into the top corner.
Three minutes later, Dalot burst into the area and turned his man before firing home.
Then Lingard got in on the act as he curled in after Maguire had sauntered forward through Tranmere’s midfield again.
It was just the England forward’s second of the season and his first domestic goal in 366 days.
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United fans let off a green flare and began chanting anti-Glazer and Woodward songs – some unsavoury – which were long and loud for all to hear.
Ferguson was in the crowd watching on, but Woodward was not here to hear them as, with the game won already, the supporters were intent to use this as a chance to protest.
Jones then broke a longer goal drought when his looping header from Andreas Pereira’s corner found the net.
Martial had been quiet but he delivered a superb finish from the edge of the area to make it five before the break.
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Solskjaer took the French striker and Nemanja Matic off at the break with Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final second-leg at the Etihad no doubt in mind.
And it was half-time sub Tahith Chong who won the 56th-minute penalty when upended by Tranmere keeper Scott Davies.
Greenwood tucked away after Solskjaer got the message out that the 18-year-old striker was to take the spot kick.
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United didn’t declare but definitely took their foot off the gas with Chong cracking the bar the closest they came to a seventh.
Tranmere fans continued to enjoy themselves, they will have relished the fact their side were a potential banana skin on a dodgy pitch for a Premier League giant.
But United avoided a slip up here to hold off their situation turning into a bigger crisis for now.
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