x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ronaldo's double sinks fighting Hull

They may not have won but Hull's triumphant march on the Premier League won fresh admirers despite losing to Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo, second from right, outjumps the Hull defence.
Cristiano Ronaldo, second from right, outjumps the Hull defence.

MANCHESTER // They may not have won, or even claimed a point, but Hull's triumphant march on the Premier League won fresh admirers after they finally gave way in a pulsating duel with Manchester United. At 4-1 up just before the hour mark, the Premier League and European champions should have cruised home.

Instead, they reached the final whistle severely rattled as Bernard Mendy and Geovanni breathed new life into the contest and forced Sir Alex Ferguson's men to cling on for maximum points, with Cristiano Ronaldo netting a double. As they had already won at Newcastle, Tottenham and, more pertinently, Arsenal this season, Hull had every reason to travel across the M62 to Old Trafford for a league game for the first time since 1975 nursing at least hope.

They refused to buckle even after Ronaldo had given United a third minute lead, although the slack marking that allowed Ronaldo to exchange passes with Dimitar Berbatov before seeing his shot cannon in off Boaz Myhill's left-hand post would eventually return to haunt them. With Geovanni floating around behind Cousin and Marlon King, the Tigers were not easy to contain. Nemanja Vidic found it particularly difficult and was fortunate not to be booked, if not for the severity of his fouls, then the regularity with which they took place.

Midway through the half, the normally dependable Serb had a tug at King's shirt, presenting Andy Dawson with the opportunity to curl a dangerous free-kick into the heart of United's penalty area. Cousin rose above a crowd of bodies, glanced his header beyond Edwin van der Sar and Hull's army of fans dared to dream. Had Phil Brown's men held United for any length of time, they might have ended up with something, although their naive defending would always lead to trouble at this level.

As it was, just six minutes elapsed before Vidic and Wayne Rooney combined to set up a lightning counter-attack in which Berbatov took the ball on before feeding Michael Carrick to his left. Just as Ronaldo was given too much space earlier, so the Hull defence backed off Carrick. The England midfielder reached the edge of the area before Paul McShane closed in. By then it was too late. Carrick may have been making his first start for seven weeks but a bit of ring-rust was not going to stop him hitting the same post as Ronaldo had done, with exactly the same result.

Ferguson expressed his displeasure at Goodison Park last weekend and against West Ham on Wednesday at the lack of a cutting edge from his team, so they were not likely to ease up a third time. Myhill beat away a Ronaldo effort, then Rooney had a goal correctly disallowed for a marginal offside decision before Nani drifted a corner to the near post two minutes before the interval which Ronaldo powered home.

Although the next goal would have brought Hull back into it, Brown knew damage limitation was the order of the day as the teams re-emerged. For 15 minutes, United peppered the Hull goal, with Ronaldo and Berbatov going close. * PA Sport