Wednesday 21 February 2018

Mourinho's Rash choice seals victory over stubborn Hull

Hull City 0 - Manchester United 1, KC Stadium

Marcus Rashford celebrates his injury-time winner for Manchester United yesterday. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby
Marcus Rashford celebrates his injury-time winner for Manchester United yesterday. Photo: Lindsey Parnaby
Manchester United's Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan (left) vies with Hull City's Scottish midfielder Shaun Maloney (right). Photo: Lindsey Parnaby
Manchester United's Ecuadorian midfielder Antonio Valencia (left) vies with Hull City's Norwegian striker Adama Diomande (right). Photo: Lindsay Parnaby
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United climbs above Andrew Robertson of Hull City to head the ball. Photo: Matthew Lewis
Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford (center) celebrates with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney

Louise Taylor

Marcus Rashford scored an injury-time winner as Manchester United finally overhauled a stubborn Hull City. The 18-year-old, making his first appearance of the season, steered home Wayne Rooney's cross to spark wild celebrations on the away bench.

Jose Mourinho maintained his 100 per cent record as United's manager though not everything is going to plan. Considering the anchoring element of his 4-2-3-1 formation stand a collective 12ft 7in - Marouane Fellaini is 6ft 4in and Paul Pogba an inch shorter - Hull's rather more averagely built central midfielder, Sam Clucas, looked a little vertically challenged.

No matter: ably supported by Tom Huddlestone (no midget himself) and Ireland's David Meyler, he held his own surprisingly well with some assured, composed passing. There were moments when Clucas was outmuscled by the more athletic Pogba but generally he proved a big reason why United struggled to trouble Eldin Jakupovic during the first half. Significantly Pogba was never able to dominate play.

Apart from watching a header from Zlatan Ibrahimovic fly fractionally over his bar following the striker's impressive connection with Anthony Martial's average cross, Jakupovic had relatively little to do in Hull's goal.

Neither did David de Gea but that seemed little consolation to Mourinho as he paced his technical area, shaking his head. With his hands tucked deep into the pockets of the overcoat he had sensibly worn on an extremely damp, Humberside evening, United manager's cut an increasingly fractious figure.

Read More: Frustrated Liverpool unable to punish slow-starting Spurs

The rain was lashing down when, in the wake of Fellaini being booked for a foul on Adama Diomande, Robert Snodgrass stepped forward to hit a free-kick from almost 30 yards. As it curled in, De Gea remained motionless and must have been mighty relieved to see it brush the outside of a post.

Shortly afterwards, Huddlestone's wonderful long pass sparked a home counterattack that concluded with Andrew Robertson crossing and Luke Shaw intercepting quite brilliantly as Snodgrass prepared to pounce at the far post. Unfortunately the winger ended up colliding with the upright and required lengthy treatment before resuming.

Mourinho must have hoped he might not be able to continue as Snodgrass was a big reason why Shaw was not able to attack in his customary fashion from left-back. With Antonio Valencia, the visiting right-back, similarly stifled things were proving rather less straightforward than United may have anticipated.

When Juan Mata dodged Robertson to deliver a cross Jakupovic could only parry, the hitherto anonymous Wayne Rooney looked set to score from six yards. Instead Curtis Davies - magnificent in central defence - somehow chested the ball off the line.

Rooney was left to, forlornly, appeal for what would have been an extremely harsh handball penalty against the defender on what was proving a trying match for the England captain. With Meyler and co frequently cramping his style and leaving him precious little room for manoeuvre, Rooney often had nowhere to turn.

Although United had plenty of possession and Hull's attacking game could not exactly be described as ambitious, Phelan must have been delighted by the way his team were containing their guests with Davies' minding of Ibrahimovic emblematic of this collective smothering. Even better, they did, albeit sporadically, menace on the counterattack.

The second half had barely begun before Snodgrass, completely unchallenged, collapsed near the dugout, a leg having apparently giving way under him. Considering he only returned from 16 months out with a serious knee injury last spring this was not a happy sight. Having manipulated his knee, Hull's physiotherapist helped him to his feet but the consoling arm he put around the winger as he was replaced could be construed as another bad sign.

Without Snodgrass to worry them - and with Fellaini arguably lucky not to have received a second booking for what looked suspiciously like a clearcut case of defiance - United began to settle.

Yet still Jakupovic, who earlier comfortably gathered a disappointing Rooney header, remained untroubled. By half-time the news had filtered through Cardiff had accepted Hull's £5m bid for their goalkeeper, David Marshall but Phelan's current No1 should count himself hard done by if he were dropped.

Recognising that things were still not quite right, Mourinho replaced Martial with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the newcomer's passing immediately helped bring the best out of Ibrahimovic. That said United's lone striker had already done more than most to raise the tone, one glorious volleyed backheel flick which found Mata offside lingering in the memory.

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