Rooney makes it all better after rare error

Hull City 1 Manchester United 3

Wayne Rooney does not often make the kind of mistake that costs Manchester United a goal and when he did so yesterday he put his head in his hands and glanced guiltily at the dugout. Fortunately for United, there are few players better at putting things right.

It was Rooney who carelessly gave away the ball that led to the penalty for Hull's equaliser and it was Rooney who inspired United's subsequent fightback that won them the game. Even the very best players are prone to the odd slip-up but there is no denying that Rooney is a useful man to have in a crisis of his own making.

As United reached the halfway point of the season they have reason to be thankful for their No 10. They are only one point short of the total of 41 points that they had amassed after 19 games last season and they have closed the gap on the leaders Chelsea to two points. After the game, Rooney called it a "mad league" but where United are concerned, the title race tends to take on an irresistible logic.

As Chelsea stumbled once again and Aston Villa were stopped in their tracks at the Emirates, so United took another stride forward. Amid the anomalous results affecting the big four we await one team to take the title race by the scruff of the neck. Yesterday, Rooney showed that he is, at the very least, capable of taking control of the destiny of important games.

Rooney said afterwards that he was more worried about Ferguson's reaction to his mistake that led to the award of a penalty scored by Craig Fagan. But fear of Ferguson alone cannot inspire the kind of performance that Rooney put in after his mistake before the hour. For that you need to be a very special kind of footballer.

Rooney had already scored United's first before referee Alan Wiley harshly penalised Rafael da Silva for a shove on Jozy Altidore and gave Hull a penalty that breathed life into the game. After Fagan scored the penalty it was Rooney whose cross led to Andy Dawson's own goal and it was Rooney's beautifully-weighted pass that Dimitar Berbatov prodded in for the third goal.

That is not to say that United are in the kind of form where they are liable to crush all before them. They were lucky at times yesterday. Wiley, refereeing his first United game since Ferguson questioned the official's fitness after a game at Sunderland, did not give Hull a penalty for Wes Brown's trip on Richard Garcia. Patrice Evra was fortunate not to be sent off when, already booked, he first punched the ball away in anger and then cynically dragged Fagan down.

This was not United at full throttle but there are signs that a new sense of order has been imposed since that defeat to Fulham before Christmas. Nemanja Vidic returned to lend the defence new authority and, crucially, that allowed Darren Fletcher to play in central midfield. Rather than go to pieces when Hull drew level, United picked them off in vintage style.

This was a fine performance from Phil Brown's team but as the manager himself pointed out, it will matter little if they cannot repeat it against Bolton Wanderers tomorrow. In the first half especially, his team had a handful of chances to score and did not take them. "It is no good to bring that kind of commitment against the top four and getting nothing for your efforts and then not doing it against Bolton," Brown said.

Wes Brown was back in the United team and his tackle on Garcia in the 21st minute looked like a penalty, although it took three replays and three different camera angles to see exactly what it was the Hull players were so upset about. In defence of Wiley it was a tough one to spot, however close to the action he was.

Having missed at least six good first-half chances to take the lead, United scored at the end of the first half. Fletcher scurried after an overhit kick that went out to the right and his ball in was missed by three Hull defenders before Rooney forced it in from close range.

Before then, Hull had defended heroically and had a decent chance to score through Seyi Olofinjana but it was saved by Tomasz Kuszczak. They scored the equaliser when Rooney's lazy backpass put in Fagan. The Hull striker went wide and chipped to the back post where Rafael was judged to have pushed Altidore as they challenged for the ball. It was Fagan who scored the penalty and from then on Rooney made it his personal mission to sort things out.

First, Rooney crossed from the right for Dawson to score in his own net under pressure from Park Ji-Sung; the end of a move that stretched from box to box. Then, with eight minutes left, Rooney broke on the opposite side of the pitch and threaded the ball through three Hull players for Berbatov to tap in the third. Rooney had done his penance.

Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; Mendy, Zayatte, Gardner, Dawson; Garcia (Vennegoor of Hesselink, 78), Boateng (Geovanni, 83), Olofinjana, Hunt; Altidore (Ghilas, 83), Fagan. Substitutes not used: Barmby, Duke (gk), Kilbane, Ghilas, Cairney.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; R Da Silva, Vidic, Brown, Evra; Valencia (Park, 63), Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs (Obertan, 78); Rooney, Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Owen, Foster (gk), Welbeck, F Da Silva, De Laet.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Manchester United Evra.

Man of the match: Rooney.

Attendance: 24,627.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine