Before the match, Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal had spoken of the need for his team to beat opponents more easily and comfortably. His words seemed to have made an immediate impact as aside from a few nervy moments early on, Manchester United completely dominated Hull in an a relatively easy 3-0 win here at Old Trafford on Saturday with goals from Smalling, Rooney and Van Persie.
With injuries forcing yet another reshuffle of the defense, it was Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and returning-from-injury Marcos Rojo that lined up in three-at-the-back formation, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young acting as wingbacks. There was once again no place for Ander Herrera in the line-up, although Di Maria’s early injury would allow the Spaniard to get a lot of minutes on the pitch.
Hull did not seem to have learnt anything from Manchester United’s performance so far and instead of taking the game to the hosts, decided to sit back and defend their box. Although United found it difficult to break Hull down in the early minutes, they certainly enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during the match.
And eventually the pressure piled on the Hull defense, and in the 16th minute Chris Smalling, with a lot of assistance from Hull keeper McGregor, bundled home United’s first goal of the night from a corner kick that was never cleared properly. The goal-line decision system had to be used to make the decision, but after five seconds where the players were unsure of the goal yet claimed it, referee Anthony Taylor awarded the hosts a goal that was much-deserved.
Minutes prior to the goal, Argentinian winger Angel Di Maria was forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, further compounding United’s injury woes. Manager Louis Van Gaal appeared concerned with Di Maria’s injury, and did not expect it to be a small matter.
“Di Maria will not be available for match against Stoke in midweek,” said Van Gaal.
Wayne Rooney doubled United’s lead in the 42nd minute with a delightful curling effort that left the keeper stranded. Receiving a lay-off from fellow striker Robin van Persie, Rooney buried his effort in the right corner of the goal and notched up his seventh goal in five matches against Hull City.
Late on, Rooney also appeared to be injured, but Van Gaal said the striker confirmed to him that he would be available for the next match against Stoke.
Robin van Persie‘s goal drought finally ended as the Dutchman smashed in a fantastic goal in the 66th minute to effectively seal the match for United. Van Persie had a better outing than last time around against Arsenal, and Van Gaal was pleased with his striker’s efforts.
“It was a beautiful goal. I had a good feeling for him in this game. I’m very happy for him.”
“We scored three, created more chances and didn’t give any away. That’s very good.”
“We dominated the game from the first minute to the last. It was our best match yet over the full 90 minutes.”
Hull City manager Steve Bruce was left to rue yet another poor performance from his side at Old Trafford.
“It’s always difficult when you come [to Old Trafford], but the one thing you’ve got to do is play well,” he said.
“We can say Manchester United played really well on the day because they did, but we certainly contributed to that fact. We made awful mistakes all over the pitch, and in the first half in particular we found it very difficult.
“When you come here you’ve got to perform at a maximum to get something, and today we found ourselves up against a very good Manchester United team.”
With three wins on the trot, Manchester United are building up good momentum ahead of the busy Christmas schedule. The Red Devils are now just four points behind second-placed Southampton who take on third-placed Manchester City on Sunday. Stoke on Tuesday is United’s next challenge as they look to consolidate fourth place in the table.