Red-hot Rooney hails United's fighting spirit
Hull City 2 Manchester Utd 3
The last time Rooney faced Hull, he scored all the goals in a 4-0 United victory at Old Trafford, and on this occasion, he registered his 150th Premier League goal for the club with one of his very best. Trailing 2-0 after just 13 minutes and with United facing a calamitous afternoon, Rooney inspired David Moyes' team to a stirring fightback.
James Chester, the former United defender who had given Hull a fourth-minute lead before heading an own goal for the visitors' third, could have stolen the glory from Rooney had David de Gea not saved his goal-bound effort, three minutes into stoppage-time.
But this was Rooney's day, and United's, as the 28-year-old delivered the kind of performance which makes a mockery of the club's failure to tie him down to a new long-term contract.
"I haven't seen the goal back yet, but it was one of my best," Rooney said. "It was a massive result. We had poor results at the start of the season, but we are fighting now. We are ready for the challenge and we might surprise a few people."
To determine whether United can genuinely challenge for the title requires more than a dramatic victory at Hull, but the club trailed Newcastle by 10 points on Christmas Day 1995 and won the title by four points. The field now is more competitive, but if United continue to show the same fighting spirit when Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic return to action, who knows how the second half of the campaign will unfold?
It is unlikely to get more dramatic than this, though, a game which had everything, from a chaotic build-up during which Moyes phoned his line-up to the stadium as the United coach crawled through traffic, to Antonio Valencia's 90th-minute dismissal for time-wasting.
Going into the game, Hull had the best home defensive record in the Premier League, but United began generously at the back, giving the hosts a helping hand in their goals.
The first was a combination of good fortune and poor defending when Hull scored from an incorrectly awarded corner. United had ample opportunity to clear, but they gifted Chester his goal as the defender was left unmarked after Alex Bruce had outjumped Patrice Evra.
If the defending then was slack, it was non-existent nine minutes later as Yannick Sagbo crossed into the penalty area having beaten full-back Rafael.
Jonny Evans stuck out a leg to block the ball, but it fell to the feet of David Meyler 10 yards from goal. De Gea appeared to have the Corkman's shot covered, but Evans' outstretched leg diverted the ball past the 'keeper and into the net. With United all over the place, Rooney escaped a booking -- or worse -- for a kick on Tom Huddlestone.
When Rafael was withdrawn with a groin injury two minutes later, the introduction of Adnan Januzaj brought an instant return, with the teenager winning the free-kick, taken by Rooney, from which Chris Smalling headed United back into the game.
They almost equalised two minutes later when Chester deflected Danny Welbeck's header behind the goal.
Rooney equalised after 26 minutes with a strike of the highest quality. There appeared little danger when Curtis Davies' mis-hit his clearance and the ball fell at Rooney's feet 25 yards from goal, but the United forward took one touch and sent a ferocious right-foot volley beyond Allan McGregor.
Hull reacted well and, despite having McGregor replaced by Steve Harper at half-time, United were forced to repel a series of attacks. Bruce sent a header against the crossbar after 63 minutes. Moyes withdrew Darren Fletcher and replaced him with Javier Hernández, prompting Rooney to drop into midfield.
Rooney sat alongside Tom Cleverley, directing the play and finding team-mates with raking passes, but a burst forward on 66 minutes resulted in the goal that put United ahead. When Welbeck fed the ball to Ashley Young on the right, Rooney broke forward in anticipation of the cross, but just as he was set to head home from close range, Chester beat him to it and sent the ball into his own net.
Hull fought back again and Danny Graham and Chester both brought crucial saves from De Gea as United held on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)