Robin van Persie got a goal and an assist as Manchester United beat Hull City 3-0 at Old Trafford.
The Dutchman came in for some criticism from his manager Louis van Gaal after last weekend's 2-1 win at former club Arsenal, with his compatriot claiming the striker had a "very bad game". But Van Persie played a key role in two goals on Saturday that will restore confidence as United registered three wins in a row for the first time this season.
Chris Smalling opened the scoring in scrappy fashion in the 16th minute, after Angel di Maria had left the field clutching his right hamstring. Van Persie teed up Wayne Rooney to smash in a second from 20 yards three minutes before half-time, and the Holland striker rounded off the win with a delightful left-footed strike. The result lifts United to fourth in the Barclays Premier League, while Hull have gone six matches without a win and sit above the bottom three on goal difference alone.
Of the three central defenders who started last weekend's 2-1 win over Arsenal, only Smalling retained his place in the United back line, with Marcos Rojo lining up alongside him and Michael Carrick playing just in front, while Hull brought James Chester and Mohamed Diame in for Tom Huddlestone and the suspended Gaston Ramirez.
It was Rooney, the United captain, who got the first sight of goal, opening up his body to curl wide of the right post from 20 yards in the seventh minute. Van Gaal's decision to keep Smalling in his defence paid dividends in nine minutes later as the 25-year-old broke the deadlock amid some questionable Hull defending. The visitors failed to clear a corner and the ball found its way just over the line when Smalling drove goalwards after Allan McGregor had attempted to scoop away. Smalling claimed the goal, but McGregor appeared to knock the ball over his own line.
Looking for a way back into the match, Hull manager Steve Bruce took off Hatem Ben Arfa 10 minutes before the break in favour of Sone Aluko, but Hull were soon two down. Juan Mata chipped the ball forward for Di Maria's replacement, Ander Herrera, who nodded down for Van Persie on the edge of the penalty area. Van Persie played the ball back for the advancing Rooney to drive home from 20 yards and give United a comfortable cushion at the interval.
Van Persie almost opened his account with a header that was palmed over by McGregor, although the linesman's flag had already gone up for offside, but the Dutchman got his goal 24 minutes from time. After picking the ball up on the edge of the penalty area, Van Persie created the angle for himself to rifle in a powerful left-footed effort.
Hull were largely ineffective in attack. A Jelavic header after 76 minutes was as close as they came and United were comfortable in seeing out victory, which could have been even more convincing had Michael Dawson not been on hand to block Radamel Falcao in the six-yard box in stoppage time.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: "It was the best match of our season. What pleased me most was the way we dominated the game from the first minute to the last minute.
"We created many chances, we didn't give away many chances and we kept a clean sheet again.
"He (Di Maria) did not come off as a precaution - he is out of Tuesday's game against Stoke. It's too close. We will have to wait and see how bad it is. We will know more tomorrow."
Hull manager Steve Bruce: "We found that very difficult from the first minute to the last. When you come here, you need to play to your best and we didn't get anywhere near that. We've gifted them goals and we've been rightly punished. It was total domination. The one thing you need to do is play well to have a chance.
"You could say Manchester United played well, and they did, but we contributed to that. We made awful mistakes all over the pitch. A really difficult afternoon for us."
|02 Dec 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|14 Dec 2014||v Liverpool (H)|
|08 Dec 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|20 Dec 2014||v Aston Villa (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Newcastle (H)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Spurs (A)|