[Premier League] Hull City 2-3 Manchester United
Hull: James Chester (4), David Meyler (13)
ManUtd: Chris Smalling (19), Wayne Rooney (26), James Chester (og 66)
Wayne Rooney scored his 150th Premier League for Manchester United as the champions came from two down to secure a vastly-entertaining Boxing Day triumph at the KC Stadium.
Having arrived late to the venue due to traffic congestion, the Reds made a poor start and conceded after just four minutes when ex-United player James Chester latched onto Alex Bruce’s header to score Hull City's opener from close-range - although replays showed the corner that led to the goal should not have been given. Things then went from bad to worse as Jonny Evans diverted David Meyler’s weak shot past a helpless David De Gea.
With backs against the wall, United reacted quickly as Adnan Januzaj (on for the injured Rafael) won a free kick on the right wing, teeing up Chris Smalling to score from an expertly delivered Rooney setpiece. The latter then restored parity himself with a brilliantly taken half-volley that comfortably beat goalkeeper Allan McGregor from around 25 yards.
Hull's manager, the United legend Steve Bruce, made two enforced changes at the break - replacing goalkeeper McGregor with deputy Steve Harper and sending on Robert Koren in Meyler's place. His side restarted brightly, almost taking the lead on 52 minutes when Yannick Sagbo’s powerful drive forced a decent save from De Gea. Bruce's son Alex then struck the bar with a thumping header on the hour.
Thankfully, the Reds were relieved moments later when Ashley Young’s cross was headed into his own net by Chester. The latter's 66th-minute error ultimately sealed a terrific win, although the Reds were also grateful to De Gea for denying Danny Graham with a crucial block in injury time. The victory lifted United up to sixth place in the Barclays Premier League before the other Boxing Day matches kicked off.
The Match United produced a pulsating comeback at the KC Stadium to rival last season’s similarly chaotic Boxing Day win over Newcastle. However, on this occasion, the Reds were forced to come from two goals down following a slow start on Humberside. Thankfully, David Moyes’ men reacted positively to the backs-to-the-wall position and headed into the break with parity restored, before three points were secured via James Chester’s second-half own goal. The only blemish on an otherwise positive day was the late dismissal of Antonio Valencia for two bookable offences.
The Goals Ex-Reds defender Chester scored the opening goal with a powerful close-range volley before his team-mate David Meyler doubled the Tigers’ lead with a scuffed shot that was deflected past David De Gea by Jonny Evans. Not going down without a fight, United reacted positively as Chris Smalling rose to net a super header past Allan McGregor, who picked the ball out of the net again just moments later when Wayne Rooney half-volleyed in his 150th Premier League goal for the Reds. Hull defender Chester then finished what he started; having earlier opened the scoring at the KC Stadium, he closed it by heading Ashley Young's right-wing cross past substitute goalkeeper Steve Harper.
Star men While Ashley Young and Darren Fletcher were both impressively combative in midfield, with Smalling also catching the eye at the back, Rooney was undoubtedly United’s standout figure. The England international was involved in two of the three goals and pulled the strings from deep. He remains a talismanic figure for the Reds.
Sub plots Fletcher made his first United start since the similarly chaotic 4-3 win over Reading on 1 December 2012, building on his recent substitute appearances at Aston Villa and Stoke City. Predictably, the fans’ favourite received an ovation from the United fans and played 61 minutes before exiting the action for Javier Hernandez. His progress is a late Christmas present for all. On a separate note, Valencia earned a suspension via his late dismissal for two bookable offences.
Opposition Prior to kick-off, Hull owned the third best defensive record in Europe and had not conceded more than one goal in any match at the KC Stadium this season - two statistics that make United’s dramatic comeback win even more impressive. The Tigers were truly ferocious opponents and will feel unfortunate not to have taken at least a point from this match, having gone close to equalising during a frantic finale when Danny Graham's close-range shot was blocked by De Gea. With such determination, they should avoid relegation this campaign.
Move of the match Although there was an element of good fortune in the build-up, Rooney’s intelligent exchange with Danny Welbeck and subsequent 25-yard finish was mightily impressive; a definite goal of the season contender.
In the stands United’s travelling fans were typically vocal throughout the action, singing through a full repertoire of Christmas songs on a chilly day at the KC Stadium. Notably, there were affectionate tributes to Eric Cantona and George Best, as well as the returning Fletcher.