Blend of old and new as Manchester United defeat Hull City
As expected, Manchester United put the old into Old Trafford last night. They also supplied the new, providing a glimpse of the future by ending a miserable season on home turf with a 3-1 victory and reason to be optimistic about their prospects.
Hull City were defeated by a debutant, the surprise selection, James Wilson, justifying Ryan Giggs’s faith with a well-taken double. The interim manager was one of Fergie’s Fledglings.
Perhaps the scorer can be deemed Giggs’s Greenhorn, a rookie given his chance in truest United traditions.
As one Old Trafford career began, at least one more concluded. Nemanja Vidic was consigned to the past, the departing captain given a pre-match presentation by Sir Bobby Charlton and saluted loudly by the United crowd.
It may, too, have been the end for Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, who are both out of contract in the summer, but neither was afforded such a tribute.
Indeed, neither took the field. Both were omitted from the 18-man squad and the Frenchman was not in the directors’ box, either.
It was an indication of Giggs’s displeasure with Saturday’s limp performance against Sunderland. The Welshman showed his ruthless streak, with long-time teammates able to testify his reign has been no old pals act.
There was one populist gesture, Giggs introducing himself. He illustrated his enduring ability by helping provide Robin van Persie’s late goal and came close to a valedictory goal with an injury-time free kick.
It was a cameo to indicate he could play on but when the 40-year-old winger rewound the clock with a trademark burst on the left wing, it was greeted rapturously, partly because of the sense an era is ending at Old Trafford.
He came on for his 963rd, and perhaps last, United appearance, to a pat on the back from his Hull City counterpart, an overweight 53-year-old Englishman who was once his United teammate.
The sight of Steve Bruce is yet another reminder of Giggs’s extraordinary longevity. This one, beginning with his debut in 1991, has lasted longer than most.
His appearance meant there were the full spectrum of Old Trafford lives. Wilson, 18, is 22 years Giggs’s junior, and the other newcomer, Tom Lawrence, is half his age. As a speedy Welsh winger, Lawrence is destined to be compared with Giggs, not least because he was given a first game by his compatriot.
While comparisons to a great are intrinsically unfair, the 20-year-old newcomer showed hints of potential, darting past opponents and impressing with his distribution.
He was, nonetheless, overshadowed by the precocious Wilson. There was something fitting in Giggs, one of United’s greatest generation of home-grown youngsters since the Busby Babes, giving a teenager a first appearance and seeing him score.
His opener was a piece of predatory finishing, too; he swivelled to hook a half-volley past Eldin Jakupovic after Marouane Fellaini had headed down Adnan Januzaj’s free kick.
It enabled two men to get off the mark: eight months into his United career, Fellaini belatedly recorded a first assist.
He was pivotal in Wilson’s second, too. After Januzaj’s swift break on the right, the Belgian had a shot saved and the teenager followed up to convert the rebound.
Old Trafford echoed to the chant of “One James Wilson” and he exited to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Van Persie.
For once in a wretched year, this was indeed the Theatre of Dreams.
But not for one of his teammates, amid fears Phil Jones will miss the World Cup for England. The versatile defender was taken to hospital with a shoulder problem after a collision with Maynor Figueroa at a United corner. It meant Vidic, initially a substitute, was summoned from the bench.
There was no clean sheet on his farewell Old Trafford appearance. The Hull substitute Matty Fryatt struck with a curling shot from distance, but the score was a subplot. This was about the past and the future, not the present.
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Published: May 7, 2014 04:00 AM