Manchester United vs Hull report: Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie on target to dispatch Tigers

Manchester United 3 Hull 0

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The Independent Football

The game was over before half-time. One of the Premier League’s minor teams had come to Old Trafford expecting to be beaten, and showed no signs of changing their mindset while on the pitch. It was as if the last two years had never been, and Sir Alex Ferguson was still patrolling the touchline.

Louis van Gaal preferred to sit, scribbling into the notebook that is his constant companion. The only negatives he recorded were the sight of Angel Di Maria pulling up with a hamstring injury before the game was a quarter of an hour old, and Wayne Rooney nursing a calf strain as the teams came off.

Van Gaal was not prepared to put a timescale on Di Maria’s recovery. The United manager added that his captain had told him he would be fit to face Stoke on Tuesday before remarking with a smile: “But Rooney always says he will be fit to play”.

Without the Premier League’s most expensive footballer, Manchester United coped seamlessly. Within two minutes of the Argentinian’s withdrawal, they were ahead. Within three minutes of the interval, Rooney had killed the game as a contest, although the most memorable moment was still to come.

In his pre-match press conference, Van Gaal had delivered a withering assessment of Robin van Persie’s form. If it was meant to galvanise his fellow Dutchman, the tactic worked.With the game more than two thirds done, Van Persie took a pass from Ander Herrera with his back to goal, turned James Chester and shot into the roof of the net. It was not nearly as important as his only other goal this season, the last-minute equaliser against Chelsea, but it guaranteed him a standing ovation when he was brought off for Radamel Falcao a few minutes later.

Moments before he had very nearly scored a better one, reminiscent of his fabulous diving header that triggered Holland’s rout of Spain during the World Cup. This time it was Michael Carrick who delivered the pass, while Allan McGregor flung himself high to his left to turn the header wide. The move was flagged offside, wrongly as it turned out.

Robin Van Persie is sent flying by Michael Dawson

The rest of the game was, seen through Yorkshire eyes, entirely predictable. Hull have not won at Old Trafford since knocking United out of the FA Cup here in 1952. This was Steve Bruce’s 700th game as a manager and in the previous 20 he had played against United he had yet to record a single victory.

Afterwards Bruce, his side kept out of the relegation zone only on goal difference, said: “You cannot make the mistakes we did and get away with them,” and explained that he had removed Hatem Ben Arfa after 34 minutes “because I had to do something to stem the tide”. But it kept on rolling towards the Hull goal until almost the very end, and but for Michael Dawson’s block on the line, Falcao would have had a comeback goal in the 20 minutes Van Gaal allotted him

In the first half, when two Hull defenders failed to clear a corner Chris Smalling headed goalwards. The ball was flapped back to him by McGregor and Smalling’s shot returned it with interest. McGregor caught it, but the sensors detected the ball had crossed the line.

Sone Aluko challenges Ashley Young in the corner

Then came the killer blow, which saw Van Persie laying the ball off to Rooney on the edge of the area. There was a surge of electricity around Old Trafford when the United captain took aim, the mixture of excitement and anticipation that had largely disappeared since Ferguson took his leave of the touchline. Now it is returning.

Manchester Utd: (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Valencia (Fletcher, 74), Smalling, Rojo, Young; Fellaini, Carrick; Di Maria (Herrera, 14), Rooney, Mata; Van Persie (Falcao, 70).

Hull: (3-5-2) McGregor; Chester, Dawson, Davies; Elmohamady, Livermore, Diamé (Quinn, 75), Brady (Myler, 75), Robertson; Ben Arfa (Aluko, 34), Jelavic.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Man of the match: Mata (Manchester Utd)

Match rating: 6/10