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A Hull of a comeback

Amid the festive mood that has embraced us all in recent days, it would have been easy to forget that, even at Christmas, United simply don’t do things the easy way.

And why would they? After two days spent eating and drinking, they probably thought we ought to experience some less enjoyable feelings but, in the end, they took a long hard look at themselves and delivered a belated present.

A trip to Hull is nobody’s idea of fun as it is, let alone considering Steve Bruce’s men boasted the best defensive record at home in the Premier League and found themselves 2-0 up within the opening 12 minutes.

United’s calamitous defending looked to have tarnished the Reds’ Christmas as they allowed former United player James Chester to open the scoring after four minutes, when he thundered the ball into the roof of the net after Alex Bruce had headed the ball into his path.

Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and even the ultra-reliable Rafael were again under the cosh eight minutes later when they failed to clear another Hull attack, and allowed David Meyler not just a second, but a third and fourth bite of the cherry, with his shot deflected past David De Gea by Evans’ foot.

At 2-0 down and with Rafael subbed off five minutes later, United, as it’s been frustratingly common this season, looked yet again set to suffer a setback after a couple of good results.

David Moyes’ decision to replace Rafael with Adnan Januzaj paid immediate dividends as the Belgian slotted in as right winger, with Antonio Valencia dropping into the right-back spot, and immediately drew a foul.

From the resulting free-kick Chris Smalling’s header pegged one back for United, before Wayne Rooney’s 150th Premier League goal for the club drew United level soon after.

Never one to do things by halves – good or bad though they might be – Rooney’s equaliser was simply sublime.

Having flicked the ball on towards Danny Welbeck, Rooney chested down the return ball before unleashing a swerving right-footed volley that flew past Alan McGregor and shut up Hull fans’ rather pathetic chants of “Champions? You’re having a laugh”.

Champions might be a step today for United this season, but the Reds laboured diligently towards another three points, even despite rather insipid performances by Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley, who failed to kick on from their last two positive outings.

With Darren Fletcher making his first start since December last year United controlled the midfield, but Hull’s defensive shape – the Tigers had conceded just three goals in eight games at home this season – prevented them from injecting any pace into the game, with Young and Januzaj largely subdued, while Patrice Evra and Valencia were kept under control by Hull’s wing-backs.

Chicharito replaced Fletcher as Moyes showed the attacking intent he’s often been accused of lacking, but United had the bar to thank for preventing Bruce’s header son from flying in with 62 minutes played.

Four minutes later the Hull defender was even more unlucky as his header flew into his own goal when he desperate tried to anticipate Rooney to the ball.

Having completed a trademark comeback, albeit not a vintage one, United – who had Valencia sent off in the dying stage, as the Ecuadorian picked up his second yellow by petulantly kicking the ball away – sat back too deep yet again and had David De Gea to thank for a crucial save on Danny Graham right at the end.

Far from a vintage performance, but good to see that we can still come back and win a game like in the good old days.

Onwards and upwards.