Van Persie strike adds to United's expanding revival
Manchester United 3 Hull City 0
It has been a while since Robin van Persie walked off the pitch with a smile on his face, but the Manchester United forward's expression was a mixture of delight and relief as he trooped off Old Trafford to a standing ovation following a spectacular end to his recent goal drought.
The Dutch forward had only endured three and a half games without a goal before unleashing a ferocious left-foot strike beyond Hull City goalkeeper Allan McGregor to complete a 3-0 victory against Steve Bruce's team, but it was the manner of his performances that had set alarm bells ringing over the 31-year-old's contribution.
Van Persie's nadir had been last Saturday's dismal performance against former club Arsenal, when he was jeered off the pitch by his old admirers after touching the ball just 13 times during United's 2-1 victory.
What a difference a week makes. There were no boos on this occasion after van Persie not only found his goal touch, but also played a telling role in the first-half goals for Chris Smalling and Wayne Rooney.
"Every striker needs a goal and, when you don't score in two or three matches, you need a goal," manager Louis van Gaal said.
"I am very happy and pleased for him that he scored a goal, but I am sure he can do better than he did today. "In the beginning, he played at number 10 and not number nine, but when I was forced to put him in the number nine after the injury to [Angel] di Maria, he played better.
"He can also play very well as a number 10, but I am very pleased that he scored and had a good influence on this game."
While United's victory was emphatic and impressive, the loss of record signing Angel di Maria to a hamstring injury after just 13 minutes was a black mark on an otherwise perfect day.
The sight of Rooney limping off at the end of the game, having been sent crashing into the advertising hoardings by Hull midfielder Andy Robertson, was another worrying moment, but the United captain's bumps and bruises are unlikely to keep him out of Tuesday's Old Trafford encounter with Stoke City.
Bruce, taking charge of his 700th game as a manager against the club he captained to two Premier League titles, was seeking to end a bad run of form, however, having seen his team lose to Spurs and Burnley in their last two outings.
But Hull were never in the game. United were able to coast to the points and should have won by an even greater margin.
"It was a very, very difficult afternoon for us, there is no mistaking that," Bruce said.
"When you come here, you cannot gift the goals that we gave them today."
Ironically, the loss of Di Maria played to United's advantage, with Ander Herrera replacing the Argentine and producing his best performance since his summer arrival from Athletic Bilbao. The Spaniard was celebrating his team's opening goal within three minutes of entering the fray when referee Anthony Taylor signalled a goal for Smalling with the assistance of the goal-line decision system.
Whether Smalling will ultimately be allowed to claim the goal is debatable due to McGregor's contribution.
Such was the home side's dominance that Hull forward Nikica Jelavic barely saw the ball, never mind touch it.
United simply kept Hull penned in, with Herrera, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini all having a positive impact in midfield.
Van Persie struggled to threaten the Hull goal, but he did play a central role in United's second with the assist for Rooney's strike.
After Herrera had won an aerial battle with Robbie Brady, Van Persie laid the ball into Rooney's path for the United captain to score from 20 yards.
Van Persie's lay-off highlighted his all-round contribution and work ethic, but the goal that his confidence needed continued to elude him in the first-half.
It almost came in spectacular style early in the second-half when he met a long ball from Michael Carrick with a diving header, similar to the one he scored for Holland against Spain during the World Cup, which was well saved by McGregor.
But Van Persie was finally rewarded for his endeavour with a stunning goal to end his barren spell on 66 minutes. Once again, Herrera made a telling contribution by intercepting a loose ball by Robertson before teeing up Van Persie, whose finish carried the ferocity of a man unleashing his frustrations with the swing of a boot.
It was Van Persie's day, though, and made all the sweeter because the smile had been a long time coming.
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