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Premier League

Manchester United 3 Hull City 1 match report: Romance rekindled as James Wilson gives glimpse of United future


Out of the darkness and the uncertainty and the many reasons to fear what lies ahead, Manchester United conjured one of those stories which will always make them such a source of romance and fascination.

It was supposed to have been an evening for reflection and retrospection – and in the appearance of Ryan Giggs for perhaps the last 20 minutes of a gilded 23-year career there certainly was that component – though the debut and two goals of an 18-year-old provided the reminder that this is a club that makes legends.  James Wilson’s goals told the story but something in his response to the first – pointing behind him to his name and number – also said ‘Manchester United.’  “He’s a goalscorer. He has pace. He’s a clever player. I think he wanted to stay on to get his hat-trick!” Giggs grinned.

 There are no more certainties about Wilson than there are about 20-year-old Tom Lawrence, whom Giggs also threw into a first appearance. Wilson’s 19 reserve team goals this season don’t make him a long-term first team prospect. Lawrence has only arrived back from a loan spell at Yeovil, after Carlisle, in the past few days. The real hope lies in the thrilling talent of Adnan Januzaj. “That kid’s going to be a superstar, isn’t he?” Hull manager Steve Bruce reflected, declaring no knowledge of a dreadful challenge on the teenager by David Meyler which left him with a scar from knee to ankle.

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It was more in desperation than hope that Giggs turned to two young men. He said the reversion to a type of football which belonged to the David Moyes era, in Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland, had baffled him and he had thought youth might snap the side out of it.

James Wilson displayed predatory instinct to give United the lead (Getty)

 Truthfully, United look like a club in a deep state of drift. In Giggs’s explanation of why Rio Ferdinand played no part in what might have been his last home game, he painted a picture of a complex logistical exercise to give everyone a send-off. Ferdinand’s goodbye had been on Saturday. “His kids were mascots. I tried to organise it when I took over, different permutations.”  The only hitch to these carefully laid plans was Vidic doing more than the pre-planned workload, arriving from the bench after a mere 20 minutes when Phil Jones left with what looked like a dislocated shoulder which threatens his World Cup with England.

Giggs said he was “pretty relaxed” about the future, as was Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, absent with a bug, though that’s precisely the problem. While Louis van Gaal’s appointment as manager is seemingly not likely to happen today, when he begins work with his Dutch World Cup players, Giggs declared last that nothing seems to have changed for ten days.


 For this night the club were locked in a no man’s land between past and future, spinning out the United legend until the bitter end and until the next chapter can be opened. “The Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United,” the home side were introduced as, for the last occasion in what might be a long time. The notion of them being best in the land already seems so distant that it was incredible to reflect that only 359 days had passed since Sir Alex Ferguson was on this pitch, saying his farewells and telling supporters last May that “your job now is to stand by your new manager.” The image of him that day, grinning with the microphone, was published in the match programme

Ryan Giggs brings himself off the bench to replace Tom Lawrence (Getty)

 It seemed as if United’s sun would never set that afternoon, but to survey a hushed Old Trafford last night was to wonder when it might rise again. There were very few winners gathered around Wilson and Lawrence. This was a starting XI with 15 trophies between them, seven if you excluded Michael Carrick from the equation. ‘Building a team for the future’ declared a lavish advertisement for club sponsor in which only two of the seven players depicted have a clear United future.

It didn’t help the evening’s sense of meaning that Hull were also in limbo, waiting for an FA Cup final on Saturday week that manager Steve Bruce said could not come soon enough now, since their progress to it has prompted a defensive collapse of 14 goals conceded in five. “There was nothing on the game so it gave me a fortunate position,” he said.

Robin van Persie seals victory with United's third

Januzaj broke the inertia - threatening immediately, being denied a penalty that was rightfully his when Figueroa launched his first crunching challenge on him in the area and getting none of the ball. Then he executed the set-piece which had clearly been refined on the training ground. The back post set-up for Marouane Fellani and knock-down for Wilson had already come close to delivering when it secured an opener on the half hour, with Wilson volleying home clinically. Wilson’s equally instinctive second came on the hour when he pounced after Fellaini’s shot had been blocked. Hull’s own immediate riposte – a speculative 20-yard strike from substitute Matty Fryatt which eluded David de Gea – was unexpected.

Nemanja Vidic takes to the mic to say goodbye to the United fans (Getty)

But then Giggs arrived – stretching, leaping, straining on the touchline and immersing himself once again on the turf which he has made his own. To have prodded the ball past Alex Bruce and left him for dead – tearing one last defender apart - was perhaps as much as he could have asked for, before perhaps his final free kick. When Eldin Jakupovic had tipped it over the bar, both he and Giggs smiled, aware of how close they had both come to a part in one more piece of legend.

 There was time for possibly the last Giggs assist – he slipped the ball into Robin van Persie who was given ample room to shoot inside the box and then collect the rebound from Bruce to volley home United’s third. Then, he took the microphone at the end to articulate what he had tried to create. “You have seen a little glimpse of the future,” Giggs said. “This is what this club is about. We never stand still. We give youth a chance as we try and play attractive football. We might not always win but keep supporting us.” The club is standing still though. It’s time to move on.