Hull City 1-3 Manchester United

Wayne Rooney rescued Manchester United in their 3-1 win at Hull

after almost playing the champions into trouble at The KC Stadium

on Sunday.

Rooney gave United the lead in first-half stoppage time but

gifted Hull a route back with the mistake that led to Craig Fagan’s

penalty equaliser. The England striker then stepped up a gear to

force an own goal from Andy Dawson and then set up a third for

strike partner Dimitar Berbatov.

The hard-fought victory lifted United back above Arsenal into

second and within two points of leaders Chelsea.

It was also United’s first encounter with Alan Wiley since

manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s outspoken attack on the referee in

October, when he claimed the official was unfit. On this occasion

United could complain little about Wiley’s decisions, and were

perhaps lucky not to see Patrice Evra sent off in the second half.

After last week’s injury-influenced debacle at Fulham, United

welcomed back a trio of defenders in Rafael da Silva, Wes Brown and

Nemanja Vidic. That gave United a much more familiar look as Darren

Fletcher and Michael Carrick returned to midfield roles while Ryan

Giggs and Berbatov also came back the champions.

United started patiently but burst into life after five

minutes as Antonio Valencia charged down the right. The Ecuador

international picked out Giggs with a well-flighted cross but the

Welshman’s volley dipped just over Boaz Myhill’s bar.

Giggs was then inches away from scoring from a 16th-minute

free-kick after Rooney went down under a Kamil Zayatte challenge.

Hull weathered that storm and appealed for a penalty after making a

rare break but Brown’s challenge as Richard Garcia raced onto a

Fagan ball was deemed fair.

Seyi Olofinjana tried his luck from long range for Hull but

Tomasz Kuszczak was not troubled. Rooney went close again for

United as Hull waited in vain for an offside flag, forcing Myhill

to palm over with a stinging shot.

Hull were unlucky not to take the lead after piecing together

a brilliant move in the 28th minute. Garcia began the attack with a

weaving run before finding Fagan out wide. Fagan’s perfect cross

was met on the volley by Olofinjana on the six-yard line but

Kuszczak saved to his right.

Hull survived a real scare when Myhill sliced a clearance but

Giggs and Rooney were unable to take advantage of an unexpected

opening.

The Tigers spurned another good opportunity as Olofinjana

found Stephen Hunt on the left but the Irishman shot tamely across

goal.

Rafael then beat the offside trap at the end of an intricate

move on the edge of the Hull box but Myhill saved brilliantly from

the Brazilian.

Pressure finally paid off as Hull failed to clear a Fletcher

cross and Rooney tapped in from close range during two minutes of

stoppage time.

United were relieved but Rooney turned villain with a

horrendous error just before the hour. Rooney played Kuszczak into

trouble with a weak backpass and Fagan nipped in to win the ball.

Fagan’s touch took it too wide to shoot but he turned and lofted in

a cross for Jozy Altidore, who was bundled over by the backtracking

Rafael. Wiley pointed to the spot and Fagan, taking over

spot-kicking duties, stepped up to coolly slot an equaliser.

United almost reclaimed the lead moments later as Brown rose

to meet a corner but Myhill clawed the ball away from under his bar

as Rooney threatened.

Hull went close from their own corner as Garcia met a Hunt

cross but his header flashed across goal.

Evra, booked in the first half, was fortunate to escape a

second yellow card for holding back Fagan as Hull tried to launch

another counter-attack.

Rooney then redeemed himself by forcing the own goal that put

United back in front after 73 minutes. Hull were caught as United

broke from deep and Giggs put Rooney through. The angle was a tight

one but Hull could not get back quickly enough and Rooney’s cross

was turned in by Dawson.

There was no way back for Hull and Berbatov finished the job

eight minutes from time, although he owed much to Rooney. The

England man was allowed to stroll into the area from halfway as

Hull reacted slowly to a long Vidic header and then picked out

Berbatov at the far post with a measured ball.

The Bulgarian had a simple task to slide home. Hull showed

spirit as Bernard Mendy and Fagan shot wide and their performance

should offer encouragement for Tuesday’s crunch clash at Bolton.