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Dec 272013

Hull City 2-3 Manchester United
Wayne Rooney mocks crest 002 Wazzas Boxing Day Delight!This kind of match is exactly the kind of hors d’ouevrePremier League Boxing Day menu is all about. It’s almost as if Hull’s manager Stevie Bruce and our own Davie Moyes downed a few pints before the match began and bet on what would happen if United gave the Yorkshire Tigers a two goal lead to start up with. It didn’t happen, that’s for sure; but, somehow, nevertheless, the champions fell 2-0 behind after thirteen minutes, giving their hosts a gleaming, beautifully wrapped, shiny temporary present all wrapped up in a bow. Any leftover Christmas cheer still being felt by United evaporated while they were still yawning and stretching to get rid of their ho ho ho.

Hull’s right-back, James Chester, another graduate of the Manchester United academy, found that the football Gods both giveth and taketh away. Only four minutes in, Chester scored his first P.L. goal ever off the kind of slapstick comedy defending we’ve grown used to this season. After a panic-driven clearance behind his goal by Chris Smalling, Tom Huddlestone’s corner was flying toward Alex Bruce, who climbed onto the back of a sleepwalking Patrice Evra. His hard downward header caught United’s goalie David De Gea completely unprepared and Chester was able to drift into the six yard box unmarked and volley the loose ball home.

Without the injured Phil Jones or Nemanja Vidic, United’s defense is repeatedly, obdurately passive. Johnny Evans and Chris Smalling: They are both fine athletes and physical specimens, but if you were in a bar fight you’d be better off with my aging mother-in-law and the Mother Superior from the Sound of Music than these two! Thus, nine minutes after the first silly goal, another silly goal! Why Evans toe-poked the ball so weakly at a badly scuffed shot by Hull’s David Meyler beggars belief. At any rate, Evans’ powder-puff clearance from Meyler’s initial shot bounced back to the midfielder. Meyler tried again–although barely harder–and Evans again stuck out a complacent toe, trying to angle it toward his goalkeeper. Completely wrong-footed, De Gea’s shocked visage greeted the ball as it flew beyond his reach into the net.

This, however, would be the last lucky stroke the Hull City team would get on the day. The Lord works in mysterious ways, or else football is a funny game filled with ironies. Funnily enough, although it didn’t seem even slightly funny at the time, everything changed for the positive when Rafael Da Silva picked up a hamstring injury, staggering off the pitch in the eighteenth minute. Consequently, Antonio Valencia switched to the right-back berth and on came the Boy Wonder, Adnan Januzaj. And it took him but one minute to put his unique stamp on the game. The eighteen-year-old sprinted down the right flank and drew a foul from Maynor Figueroa. Invisible up to that point in the game, Wayne Rooney weighted his free-kick perfectly as Chris Smalling climbed over Curtis Davies and headed past Allan McGregor to score his first league goal of the season.

Wayne Rooney scores Manch 011 Wazzas Boxing Day Delight!Seven minutes later, the mighty Wazza struck again. Welbeck did well to chest down a Cleverley clearance and somehow, out of nothing, and in a seemingly off-balance posture, the brilliant Scouse fired a vicious 25-yard volley which gave McGregor no chance, to tie proceedings.

Credit has to be given to Hull for maintaining their challenge in the second half. Repeatedly vulnerable to long-balls from Tom Huddlestone, with Smalling and Evans seemingly more concerned with not jumping into each other than dealing with the opposition. Twice Smalling let Curtis Davies shunt him aside, once when he nodded a hard header wide and another where he connected with the mostly hapless Danny Graham, who got the ball to Yannick Sagbo, whose superb shot was wonderfully saved by a bit of De Gea brilliance. At half-time each manager surely screamed instructions at their teams to tighten up their rearguards while maintaining their attacking flow. Both sides tried hard, but the sometimes jaw-droppingly slick interplay between Rooney and Januzaj always threatened to give the visitors the lead.

Huddlestone, a player who could be up there withe Yaya Tour√©’s and Yohan Cabaye’s if he’d have been blessed with more pace, was still a nightmare for United to handle. Avoided religiously by the always safety-first Tom Cleverley, Huddlestone was casually able to hang back in deep midfield, firing effort after effort into United’s box with only the gutsy old-lag legs of Patrice Evra willing to combat his repeated threat. Indeed, in lieu of the innate panic telegraphed by Evans and Smalling, Evra’s calmness and maturity under fire as he made repeated deflections of long balls helped save the victory. Indeed that was exactly the situation when, off a corner, as Evra struggled to clear yet another Huddlestone mortar, the ball reached a completely unmarked Steve Bruce. Bruce’s thunderous header was so hard that, after beating De Gea, it slammed into the crossbar and was cleared by the aging French left-back.
United, however, were relentless. Rooney, covering every blade of grass as usual, would not be denied. Darren Fletcher, making his first start for United since December 1st, 2012 after surgery on a chronic bowel condition, kept it economical. Mopping up for Smalling and Evans, he wasn’t exactly like a new signing, but there was a kind of confidence he exuded that speaks of victory and happy memories. Indeed, his blistering drive on the hour mark gave Hull’s substitute veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper a moment of panic before he got it under control. Minutes later, however, and the brave Hull levee finally broke. United grabbed the lead by keeping up the pressure down Hull’s vulnerable left flank. With Maynor Figuroa on a yellow card and a final warning from the referee, the Honduran left-back was paralyzed as a sizzling Ashley Young left him stranded. His arcing powerful cross was all set for a charging Wayne Rooney to nod home when a desperate James Chester dived in to save the day, but only succeeded in nodding the ball past a frozen Harper to gift United victory.

Manchester Uniteds Chris 008 Wazzas Boxing Day Delight!In the end, it worked out to be pretty much a dream day for David Moyes, the lads and the fans, although Valencia being sent off following a second yellow card after a clash with Huddlestone in the waning seconds of the match did not please anybody. Will the return of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher make up for missing Rafael and Tony V? Time will soon tell.

“We made too many mistakes at crucial times. We created umpteen opportunities in the second half but made mistakes and you get punished against a team like Manchester United,”said Hull’s manager Steve Bruce, an old Manchester United stalwart at center-back who remains massive in memory. “James Chester will get over it because he’s a very good young player.”

“To be two down and come back to win is a great result,” Moyes said after the game. “I thought it would be a long road back but these players have done this in the past and we did well to get back in the game.”
Hull Citys goalkeeper All 004 Wazzas Boxing Day Delight!

Ivor Irwin

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