Wayne Rooney's four goals took United back to the top of the Premier League as they took advantage of their rivals' FA Cup commitments and Boaz Myhill discovered that a week is a long time in goalkeeping.
Myhill produced the performance of the season last Saturday to keep Spurs out. Yesterday he was implicated in Rooney's first two goals as the crowd's acclaim for their striker gradually replaced the "Glazers out" chants. It was as reassuring an end to the week as you can have when you are £700 million in debt.
For a long time, United – Rooney apart – made heavy weather of it. Rooney and Michael Owen had already threatened to embarrass Hull with their pace on a number of occasions before a corner was only cleared as far as Paul Scholes. His shot from 30 yards was his usual clean strike, but Myhill would have caught it between his teeth at White Hart Lane. At Old Trafford, he merely parried it into the path of Rooney, who put it straight back past him.
The wonder was that it took United almost an hour and a quarter to extend that lead. Apart from Rooney, who expected to be involved in everything, Nani was having probably his best game, repeatedly ripping Hull apart down the right flank.
The best chances fell to Owen – after a particularly intricate piece of approach work just before half-time – and Park Ji-Sung, who miskicked from one of Nani's endless string of crosses. There could have been a price to pay for such profligacy and the Hull substitute, Kamel Ghilas, almost exacted it with a shot on the turn in a crowded penalty area that skidded past the far post. Sir Alex Ferguson described that as "a wake-up call" and United – and Rooney in particular – were certainly wide awake in the last 15 minutes. Myhill could only push Nani's free-kick on to the bar when he should have caught it comfortably, Dimitar Berbatov hooked it back into the middle and Rooney fired home.
His third came with a header from Nani's pinpoint cross and then, in injury time, he controlled Berbatov's chip to make it three in 11 minutes and score four for the club for the first time. It took his total so far this season to 20 and, as Ferguson observed, bettering his all-time best of 23 should now be a formality.
Rooney made a point of thanking Nani, so often the butt of the fans' disapproval at Old Trafford, for his contribution to his haul. "I'm happy to help him," said the Portuguese winger. "It gives us confidence to know that we've got a striker who can score every game."
Hull, with chairman – or ex-chairman – problems of their own, never came to terms with him. "When you've got the quality of Wayne Rooney against you, half-chances are great chances for him," said their manager, Phil Brown. "He puts defenders under constant pressure, forces you to make mistakes and that was the difference between the two teams."
Brown had no inclination to argue with the assessment of Rooney as one of the best strikers in the world on current form. "Not after witnessing what I've just witnessed," he said. "It certainly bodes well for England."
Something else that could do that was a quiet return by Rio Ferdinand, playing for the first time since October after recovering from a back injury. He will have more demanding matches than this, however, between now and the end of the season.
Referee: Steve Bennett
Man of the match: Rooney
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content