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Hull City 2-3 Manchester United: Reds hit back to gain vital win

Manchester United came from two goals down to clinch a win at Hull City, with Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and a James Chester own-goal giving them three points against Steve Bruce's side.

Laurence Griffiths

Manchester United got through a difficult away game at Hull despite finding themselves two goals behind early on.

James Chester and David Meyler had put the hosts 2-0 up before United roared into life, Chris Smalling and Wayne Rooney scoring before a Chester own-goal made it 3-2 in the second half.

United found themselves behind after just four minutes when Tom Huddlestone's ill-gotten corner found Alex Bruce at the back post, who headed on for James Chester to volley home as two former United youngsters combined to open the scoring for the hosts.

United looked less like they'd had too much brandy in their christmas pudding and more like they'd replaced it with concrete as some disastrous defending handed Hull a 2-0 lead shortly afterwards, as Jonny Evans failed to clear David Meyler's effort, allowing the former Sunderland man to have another go, which deflected off Evans and past David de Gea to pile on more misery for the visitors, with Rafael's withdrawal after pulling his hamstring adding injury to insult.

That left United needing to score three goals against a side that had only conceded that many at home all season. Fortunately, being behind seemed to wake them up - David Moyes responded with a very attacking chance, moving Antonio Valencia to right-back and inserting Adnan Januzaj for the stricken Rafael, and the Reds took just five minutes to pull a goal back. Wayne Rooney put in a superb delivery from a free-kick and Chris Smalling rose highest to head home.

United were now all over Hull, and Danny Welbeck saw a header glanced wide after a deflection off Bruce before Tom Cleverley tested Allen McGregor with a long-range effort. But Hull could not hold out for long, and some good hold-up play from Welbeck presented the ball to Rooney outside the area, and he responded with a flourish, smashing an excellent strike into the top corner of the net.

The game looked like finishing about 7-9 at this point, but Hull then seemed to steady themselves somewhat, with United not able to craft out any more clear chances before the end of the half. After the break, things got even worse, as Hull enjoyed a good spell, with Alex Bruce hitting the crossbar. Moyes responded with a ludicrously attacking change, moving Rooney into a midfield two with Cleverley and sending on Javier Hernandez for Darren Fletcher. Against the run of play, United stole a third, Chester adding a goal at the other end as he hit Young's cross into his own net from close range.

United were now ahead, but the most difficult part of the game was yet to come as Hull rallied to put Moyes' men under real pressure. Michael Carrick made his return from the bench, but Hull had a string of chances to steal a point or even more at the end. Danny Graham was picked out down the left channel but opted to head the ball into De Gea's arms when he had time to shoot, before De Gea also cost United the game by charging off his line to collect a cross and getting nowhere near it, but United managed to clear before Hull could muster a shot on the vacant goal.

Antonio Valencia then let his team down after kicking the ball away while on a yellow card, leaving the referee with little choice but to send him off. James Chester was then played in to score an unlikely third after getting one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but De Gea slid out to make a fine save at close range to atone for his earlier error. A late wide effort from Alex Bruce was all Hull could manage, and United hung on to take all three points.

That leaves United just five points from the top of the league. Things are starting to look up.