The cynics among us will point out it was only Hull, and that a couple of years ago we’d have been expecting to win games like this as comfortably as this. The point is, of course, that this has rarely been the case in recent times and that, realistically, a decent outcome for this season will mean us finishing above Arsenal and Liverpool, assuming they get their act together at some point, both of whom have laboured to ignominious home draws against Steve Bruce’s side this season.
This display was anything but laborious. United did what they’ve failed to do for a long time and played fluent, passing football at pace for pretty much the entire ninety minutes. Even more impressively, they played most of the game without Di Maria, who sadly hobbled off early in the game, the latest victim of the United injury curse. Disappointing though his departure was, it didn’t shake the Reds out of their rhythm one bit and they were soon ahead. The goal didn’t come from one of the many imperious passing movements they had been producing since the first minute, however, but from goalmouth scramble that saw Chris Smalling’s header pawed back to him by McGregor in the Hull goal, only for Smalling to make no mistake with his shot. McGregor held onto it, but carried it over the line and goal line technology decided the matter in United’s favour.
From there it got even easier. United were in the rare position of starting a game with the only products of the youth team on the opposition side, McNair and Blackett having returned to the bench after their fine performances at Arsenal last week. Those who did play, however, did so with the flair and style associated with the club that was so absent last season. Fellaini, playing with renewed confidence, was busy throughout, allowing Carrick the space to dictate play alongside him, while Rooney looked threatening throughout and Ashley Young, playing as an attacking left back, seems finally to have discovered how productive it can be to contribute to the team effort. But it would be wrong to single anyone out: United as a team always looked comfortable on the ball, busy and tenacious when looking to retrieve it.
It would have been an injustice had the Reds not added to their lead before half-time, and the injustice was duly avoided when Rooney pounced on Van Persie’s lay-off at the edge of the box to place the ball past McGregor three minutes before the break.
Predictably, Hull did attempt to make more of a game of it early in the second half but the threat soon fell away and De Gea was rarely troubled. United continued much as they’d left off at half-time, looking comfortable without feeling the need to push the issue. The one goal they did add was excellent, however, Van Persie crashing his left-footed shot high into the net for a third goal that was richly deserved. He was later substituted and his replacement Falcao almost marked his return with a goal late in the game, but Dawson blocked his shot on the line and recovered to thwart the Colombian a second time. By that point, though, the game was well won and United’s fans will hope for more of the same against Stoke on Tuesday night.