Manchester United have won their fifth match in a row after staging a remarkable comeback against Hull City. Having gone 2-0 down -- against a side who had conceded just three goals at home all year prior to the match -- early on thanks to goals from James Chester and David Meyler, the defending champions roared back to claim a 3-2 victory.
Hull got off to a flying start, grabbing the opener within four minutes. Ahmed Elmohady won a very strange corner by hitting a cross straight out of play while in the general vicinity of Tom Cleverley, and the hosts made the most of their good fortune. Tom Huddlestone's delivery was perfect, giving Alex Bruce the space to rise over his defenders and nod down to James Chester, who did his part by smashing a volley into the roof of the net.
United, who were welcoming Darren Fletcher back into the team after a years-long absence with ulcerative colitis, tried to reply through Ashley Young, but succeeded only in injuring Hull goalkeeper Allen McGregor. And then they went further behind. David Meyler tried to set Yannick Sagbo free with a deft flick into the penalty area, but the pass took the striker too far wide and it looked as though the chance had gone. But some bizarre defending culminated in Jonny Evans turning a routine clearance into a pass to Meyler, whose mis-hit shot he then deflected past a bemused David de Gea.
2-0 down in the 13th minute meant that United had plenty to do, and injury was added to insult when Rafael was forced off seconds later. But where most teams would have collapsed, the champions responded by taking the fight to the Tigers. Adnan Januzaj, on for Rafael, won a free kick in an advanced position on the United right, and Wayne Rooney's vicious cross was met by Chris Smalling, who used his raw strength to get above Curtis Davies and flick a header into the top corner.
The momentum was with the visitors, who were obviously looking to exploit the fact that McGregor was still suffering the after-effects of the collision with Young. The goalkeeper had been rooted to the spot for Smalling's goal, and he wasn't moving well -- even when he pulled off a save, he came up wincing. And so United bombarded Hull's goal with long range efforts.
As it turns out, McGregor's injury didn't play any role at all in the equaliser: No goalkeeper in the world would have stopped Rooney's strike. The England star flicked on to Danny Welbeck, received the return on his chest, and crashed a dipping half-volley just inside the angle of post and bar. It had taken a mere 13 minutes after going 2-0 down for United to draw level.
For the remainder of the half, it was the visitors who looked more likely to make something happen, and David Moyes' side were perhaps unfortunate not to get a penalty when Jake Livermore accidentally handled in his own box while shepherding the ball away from Antonio Valencia. Hull weren't completely quiet, but the ebullience of the early stages had vanished entirely.
The second half saw the hosts make two changes, with McGregor finally making way for Steve Harper and Robert Koren arriving to shore up the midfield. The substitutions had the desired effect; the Tigers were much more proactive after the break, giving de Gea a scare or two when they went forward. Alex Bruce came within a whisker of reestablishing Hull's lead when he headed another Huddlestone corner against the underside of the bar.
But an aggressive approach from the hosts meant that there was space for United to break into, and that proved lethal. Maynor Figueroa dived in on Ashley Young and completely missed the tackle, giving the winger time and space to play a dangerous ball across the face of Harper's goal. Chester, desperately trying to prevent Rooney latching onto the cross, nodded the ball into his own net to give United their first lead of the match.
Michael Carrick made his return from injury as Moyes looked up to shore his midfield and see out the match. They very nearly failed to -- as full time loomed Sagno managed to wriggle past Evra and play in a cross which found the unmarked Danny Graham at the back post only for the striker to head straight at de Gea. A second yellow for Valencia for kicking the ball away after conceding a foul made injury time even more stressful for United, but thanks to some fine work from de Gea (and some inept finishing on Hull's part) the visitors survived with their lead intact.
Hull City starting lineup (3-5-2): Allan McGregor (Steve Harper 45'); Curtis Davies, Alex Bruce, James Chester; Maynor Figueroa (George Boyd 73'), David Meyler , Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Ahmed Elmohamady; Danny Graham, Yannick Sagbo.
Goals: Chester 4', Meyler 13'.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Rafael (Adnan Januzaj 18'); Tom Cleverley, Darren Fletcher (Javier Hernandez 62'); Ashley Young , Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia; Danny Welbeck.
Goals: Smalling 20', Rooney 26', Chester og 65'.