Despite the blast of fresh air that has blown through Old Trafford in the last couple of months, Manchester United fans were in the mood for reminiscence at Hull. They sang songs about George Best gainst a side managed by Mike Phelan, an avuncular emblem of the last great empire. Phelan was not the only reminder of United's past on show, but we'll get to Wayne Rooney in due course...
United almost pay for first half lethargy
Hull were content to sit deep and allow United to come on to them, treating the ball as an object worthy of great suspicion. United lacked the pace in central areas to affect uncertainty in the staunch Hull defence, with cutbacks following combinations with Antonio Valencia on the right wing their best avenue to goal in the first half. Anytime Zlatan came deep for the ball, he was lacking runners gambling beyond him. Otherwise, however, United were ponderous, stirring the beastly memory of the previous regime:
All a bit LVG so far from #MUFC. Lots of possession but not much spark. Utd should still have scored but Hull rarely at full stretch. HT 0-0
— Oliver Kay (@OliverKay) August 27, 2016
— Stan Collymore ❤️🖤 (@StanCollymore) August 27, 2016
The second half saw an improvement with the introduction of Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with both bringing a directness and urgency that was badly missing in the first half. It was noticeable that United looked best when the pacy Mkhitaryan went centrally, as the man who began the game in that position was a quite serious issue.
United display the spirit of old
While the first-half displayed the worst vestiges of the Van Gaal era, a winner in stoppage time was reminiscent of the Ferguson empire. The winner was created by Wayne Rooney down the left, ghosting past a defender like it was 2010, with Marcus Rashford poking it in ahead of a gaggle of Hull defenders.
The celebrations were quite something, with a number of United fans ending up on the pitch.
Credit to Rashford, to Rooney to Mourinho and to United: the kind of August victory that has ramifications in May.
Wayne Rooney shows what he can offer, but it doesn't mean he should be first choice
The continued selection of Wayne Rooney continues to be an odd deference to past tradition. While he assisted the goal, Rooney struggled dreadfully in the early parts of the game.
Rooney began this game as if the marrow in his bones had been infused with mercury: shambling around with the tired, pachydermal touch and lead-filled boots of a construction worker asked to do some DIY at the end of a long day. He was dispossessed three times within the space of thirty seconds in the opening minutes, and ultimately gave the ball away eight times in the first half, more than any other player.
Possibly the worst 13 minutes of football I've ever seen from one individual by Wayne Rooney, there.
— Gavan Casey (@GavanCasey) August 27, 2016
rooney has lost the ball so many times. the young mourinho would have punishment-subbed him by now
— Ken Early (@kenearlys) August 27, 2016
Rooney then did show he was capable of some great moments: his assist for the goal was quite brilliant, but you can't but feel that some of United's other attackers would benefit from playing in Rooney's No.10 position. Anthony Martial languished on the left tramlines doing little before being subbed, while Paul Pogba was shackled in a deeper midfield role alongside Marouane Fellaini.
Rooney's issue is that the team would benefit overall from a change in shape and formation, as it would allow Pogba to get closer to goal and Martial come more central. The pace of Rashford and Mkhyitarian changed the game.
Wayne Rooney was awful today but, credit where it's due, that was super play.
That felt good! #FullTimeSween
— Stretford Paddock (@StretfordPaddck) August 27, 2016
You can't deny Rooney's spirit, however.
There appear to be brains beneath that Marouane Fellaini afro
If the PFA were to scour the previous few Premier League seasons for a new spokesperson, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there were fewer options worse than Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian is arguably the least diplomatic player in the league, and appears to take an elbows-first approach to negotiating with his peers.
In this game, however, Fellaini offered United a safety blanket, anchoring midfield to good effect to break up the admittedly few Hull counter-attacks as United laid siege in the second half. The fact that Fellaini kept his head well in the second half was made all the more impressive given the fact he was booked after 25 minutes.
I can't believer how good Fellaini is in that sitting role
— Manchester United (@Manutdsfans) August 27, 2016
Scorned for years, Fellaini has now carved out a role for himself as a kind of United patron: the man who allows the creativity alongside him get on with the business at hand.
Hull, however, were heroic
Hull defended quite superbly throughout, with Curtis Davies displaying the routine recklessness of body that once earned John Terry the adoration of a nation. Expect his to be the name most-discussed after Sam Allardyce names his England squad tomorrow.
Out of the rubble of their pre-season preparations has emerged a group of Hull players with extraordinary spirit and determination. The pre-season sense of doom - they had just 13 fit senior players three weeks ago - has rendered itself in ways noble and stout.
There's something good happening at Hull. Mike Phelan deserves the job permanently, even if this ultimately went awry.
See Also: Premier League Takeaways: Pardew Running Out Of Excuses, Everton Forget McCarthy, Xhaka Excels