Inspired by Wayne Rooney’s 150th Premier League goal for the club, Manchester United recovered from a terrible start to beat Hull City 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the KC Stadium. The Premier League champions had gone 2-0 down to the side managed by their former captain Steve Bruce in the opening 13 minutes through a goal from another former United defender, James Chester, and a deflected strike from David Meyler.
But David Moyes’s side quickly turned the contest around and were level by the 26th minute as Chris Smalling headed home and Wayne Rooney smashed in a stunning volley. On the ropes, Hull had begun to regain a foothold at the start of the second half and even hit the bar. Instead, United gained the decisive goal of an entertaining Boxing Day contest that might have gone either way when Chester added to his first-half goal with one at the wrong end. The three points were slightly tainted late on when Valencia was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away.
The win takes United temporarily into sixth place in the Premier League standings. And it will be one with which Moyes views with a mixture of relief and delight having come back to score as many goals against Hull as they had conceded in all their previous league matches at home this season before clinging onto the three points in the dying minutes.
It initially looked like it could be another difficult day for Moyes as he looks to inspire United to bounce back from their woeful start to the campaign. In the early minutes his side played as if suffering from a heavy Christmas hangover.
To be sure, there was an element of fortune about Hull’s opening goal with the officials awarding the corner it resulted from when Ahmed Elmohamady mishit the ball straight out of play. But that was no excuse for the terrible defending that followed. Bruce won a header at the far post to direct the ball back into the danger zone and Chester was allowed the space to volley that ball into the net from close range.
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The home side were soon in dreamland as United’s defending went from bad to worse. United missed umpteen chances to clear the ball as Yannick Sagbo put in a cross that Evans failed to adequately deal with and he was again slow to react as he deflected Meyler’s strike past David de Gea.
The response to the terrible opening was powerful and swift from the visitors. Steve Bruce will undoubtedly be disappointed by the manner of United’s opening goal on 19 minutes, however. Despite having ample height in their team, Smalling was allowed to rise highest in the box from a corner and head past Allan McGregor, who would be replaced by Steve Harper at half time due to injury.
There was little that could be done to stop the equalizer. Rooney looked to combine with Danny Welbeck on the edge of the box and when the ball was deflected back to him off a defender he chested it down into his stride before unleashing an unstoppable volley into the top corner of the net.
Undoubtedly shell-shocked, it wasn’t until after the opening minutes of the second half that the home side came fully back into the match. They had chances to go back ahead too with Sagbo testing De Gea, while Curtis Davies might have done better with a header. They were inches away from going back in front when, from another corner, Bruce headed against the bar.
But it was not to be Hull’s day. In the 66th minute, Ashley Young, who again showed some more impressive touches than the early weeks of the season, sent in a fine cross directed toward Rooney in the middle but was never allowed to reach him as Chester headed into the same net as in the first half but this time with desperately contrasting emotions.
There were unsettling moments for United late on, with De Gea’s decision to come out for a cross almost proving costly, as did Valencia’s early exit when Chester had a shot blocked by De Gea from a position the Ecuadorian would have been occupying. Still, despite the late pressure the visitors held on for a fifth straight victory in all competitions.