MANCHESTER // Four superb goals from Wayne Rooney saw Manchester United return to the top of the table with a 4-0 victory over a battling Hull City. The game was played against a backdrop of fan discontent with United supporters wearing green and gold scarves as a symbol of objection to the Glazer family who own the club and have presided over mounting debts now standing at £712 million (Dh4.3bn).
Fans stood behind a prominent banner stating: 'Glazer - Forever In Your Debt' and fans sang 'We want Glazer out' and 'Love United, Hate Glazer'. The owners would have been worried about the spectre of 2,200 unsold tickets - Old Trafford now witnessing empty seats for league games for the first time since 1992. Sir Alex Ferguson's notes in the match programme saw the United manager finally opine about the issue.
"The family of Manchester Uni-ted is under pressure as a result of all the issues and controversies surrounding the ownership and financial situation of our club," said Ferguson. "Some of our fans are clearly unhappy with the financial position but we mustn't allow the situation to become divisive. The danger is that we could be presented as being split, which would be harmful." Their support of the team should never have been questioned; it is their disdain for the owners which is upsetting fans.
The game started well for Uni-ted as Rooney put his side ahead after eight minutes when Boaz Myhill parried a powerful Paul Scholes shot into his path. United's top scorer perfectly positioned to sweep the ball home. Without a win in their last seven league games, the likelihood of Hull - who scored three times in the equivalent fixture last season - achieving anything was remote. United were happy to welcome back captain Rio Ferdinand, the defender making his first start in three months. Michael Owen was afforded a rare start alongside Rooney, though he was largely ineffective and Ferguson will be more pleased that his side kept a seventh clean sheet in their last eight home league matches - the only blot being last month's defeat by Aston Villa.
United have scored 21 in those seven victories, underling their excellent home form. With the score at 1-0, Hull remained competitive and Kamel Ghilas shot narrowly wide after 75 minutes, but United had a sting in the tail called Rooney. His perfectly executed shot made it two and a powerful header from a Nani cross three as Hull finally tired. Rooney's fourth came in injury time, leading his manager to say: "It's the first time that Wayne Rooney has scored four goals in a game and he's in great form. We started well but became frivolous in our control of the game. We should hammer home our advantage, but we have to credit Hull for how they played and fought in the second half."
"We came up against a very good striker who was on form today, but we should have defended better," added Hull's manager Phil Brown. firstname.lastname@example.org