If only Manchester United could play Fulham every week people might begin to take them more seriously.

The joke before kick-off at Old Trafford was that Liverpool had done United a favor by winning so handsomely at Bournemouth, because goal difference might be important in the battle for eighth place.

“We are unbeaten in four league games,” the allegedly happy one [Jose Mourinho] said beforehand, which was one way of putting positive spin on the fact United had not picked up a win since before Bonfire Night.

“We were good at every level in the first half,” Jose Mourinho said. “We played like I want us to play; we were a compact unit that gave Fulham no chances.”

Fulham were kind enough to let United boost their goal difference with their biggest win of the season, and although a significant gap remains to the top five, Mourinho and his players are at least in the right place to be pushing for a UEFA Champions League spot.

Claudio Ranieri’s strugglers were far too easily dominated, with the Italian reduced from an early stage to standing on the touchline with a resigned look and extended right hand to show his players the direction they were supposed to be playing.

Ashley Young was the man to open the scoring. The United captain initially appeared likely to attempt a cross when he took the ball high on the left but once he beat Denis Odoi to find space in the area he caught sight of goal and found Sergio Rico’s top corner with a curling right-foot drive.

Juan Mata scored next, receiving a squared ball from Rashford.

United increased their lead just before the interval with a slick triangular passing move that clearly pleased Mourinho. Jesse Lingard found Mata, whose first-time ball along the six-yard line was neatly tucked home.

Rashford then rounded off the match in style with an audacious effort that beat the opposition goalkeeper at his near post.