Hull City 2 Man United 3: Three talking points
Hull City 2 Man United 3: Three talking points as Wayne Rooney inspired a Red Devils comeback
United continue to rely on Rooney
How much longer can Manchester United rely on the brilliance of Wayne Rooney? Hull City surged into a 2-0 lead at the KC Stadium thanks to some generous United defending but it was the 28-year-old striker who dragged the visitors back into the Boxing Day clash. The England international showed pinpoint accuracy to find Chris Smalling from a free-kick and the centre-half guided his header past Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor. Moments later, it was 2-2. Rooney combined with Danny Welbeck before launching an outrageous half volley past the Tigers keeper. It was Rooney’s 150th Premier League goal for Manchester United – only Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has reached that tally at one English club. The United striker has scored nine goals and made nine assists in 15 Premier League appearances. It’s testament to David Moyes that Rooney has cast aside memories of a dour 2012-13 campaign – and now looks world-class again.
Hull show fighting spirit
Hull have acquitted themselves well since promotion to the Premier League. Steve Bruce’s men started this game in 13th place and seven points clear of the relegation zone – and inside 13 minutes looked to be heading into the top half of the table. The Tigers were bright and James Chester’s opener was manufactured by an excellent leap by Alex Bruce, who fought off the attentions of Patrice Evra. But it was David Meyler’s strike which really highlighted Hull’s team spirit. Yannick Sagbo chased down an over-hit pass and teed up his Republic of Ireland team-mate. Meyler miscued his first effort but shrugged off the attentions of two United defenders to poke a finish past David De Gea. Of course, the Red Devils recovered through Smalling and Rooney, but the Tigers regrouped to stem the United tide until Chester’s unfortunate own goal. Bruce’s side continued to press for a leveller, resulting in Antonio Valencia’s sending off before Chester failed to beat De Gea with a late chance. It was only Hull’s second defeat of the season at the KC Stadium – if they can continue that home form, the Tigers should remain in the top flight.
United close the gap further
Heading into December, the defending Premier League champions appeared to be out of the title race, trailing then-leaders Arsenal by a mammoth 12 points – surely too big a gap even for a side with such a famed never-say-die attitude. But this win temporarily moves the Red Devils to within five points of leaders Liverpool. United have quietly climbed the table as their title rivals have taken points off each other – and Moyes will be hopeful that the current gap can close further. Rooney is in superb form, and United have key men such as Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher back from injury, whilst Robin van Persie is nearing a return from injury. There is also the January transfer window, which will present the United boss with the opportunity to strengthen his squad ahead of the long season run-in.