Manchester United 3-1 Hull: Ryan Giggs tells fans 'you've seen a glimpse of the future' after James Wilson's double goal debut
Barclay's Premier League match report and pictures from Old Trafford
Out of the darkness and uncertainty and many reasons to fear for what lies ahead came one of those stories which will always make Manchester United such a source of romance and fascination.
It was supposed to have been an evening for reflection and retrospection – and in the appearance of Ryan Giggs for perhaps the last 20 minutes of a gilded 23-year career it certainly was that – though in the debut and two goals of an 18-year-old came the reminder that this club makes legends.
James Wilson’s goals told the story and there was something in his response – pointing behind him to his name and number when he took the first – also said ‘Manchester United.’
Giggs took the microphone at the end, articulating what he had tried to demonstrate before an outsider, Louis van Gaal, assumes control.
“You have seen a little glimpse of the future,” he said. “This is what this club is about. We never stand still. We give youth a chance as we try and play attractive football. We might not always win but keep supporting us.”
They spun out the legend until the bitter end. “The Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United,” the home side were introduced as, for the last occasion in what might be a long time.
The notion of them being best in the land already seems so distant that it was incredible to reflect that only 359 days had passed since Sir Alex Ferguson was on this pitch, saying his farewells and telling supporters last May that “your job now is to stand by your new manager.” The image of him that day, grinning with the microphone, was published in Tuesday's match programme
It seemed like the sun would never set that afternoon, but to survey a hushed Old Trafford last night was to wonder when it might rise again. Giggs’ intuitive feel for his great club told him to send out Tom Lawrence and James Wilson, neither whom had had a minute of match time, but there were very few winners gathered around them.
It was a side with 15 trophies between them, seven if you excluded Michael Carrick from the equation, and everywhere you looked there were questions about where things go from here. ‘Building a team for the future’ declared a lavish advertisement for club sponsor in which only two of the seven players depicted have a firm road ahead.
Nemanja Vidic didn’t think it would finish quite like this. The presentation of a parcel on the pitch by Sir Bobby Charlton, a Tannoy reminder of his own trophy haul – ten – and then an arrival from the bench which was rather more than the cameo he had expected.
Phil Jones was clattered by Maynor Figueroa, left in tangible agony with a right shoulder injury on 22 minutes and Vidic arrived, with enthusiastic instructions from Giggs on how to do the job he has done 298 times before, including substitutes’ appearances.
The directors’ box was a picture of introspection – the long faces of Luis Nani and Javier Hernandez revealing that uncertainty stalks them the most – though out on the field there were immediate flickers of light from the new world to come.
One of the myriad enigmas of the David Moyes era was his disinclination to use Adnan Januzaj more, since he was one of the few who consistently saved him and the 19-year-old looked like the coming man amid the new boys among him.
He was threatening Figueroa in the left hand side of the Hull box before the game was fully five minutes old — lifting up the cross which Marouane Fellani headed down for Wilson was a replica of the training ground move that would give United a lead, soon enough. Figueroa took the teenager out when he took on a pass from Antonio Valencia and powered into the six yard box a few minutes later, though the penalty was not awarded, and there was some justice about Januzaj lifting the free kick which Fellaini’s header set up for the goal which will always be a part of Wilson. Drifting back to slip the central defenders, he volleyed powerfully to put his team ahead.
Lawrence offered something fleeting too, haring towards the penalty area after the break and drawing the desperate challenge for which David Meyler was booked. But it was to be Wilson’s night. It was he who lurked in the six-yard box on the hour, picking up the loose ball which fell generously for him and firing home his second goal - after Eldin Jakupovic had blocked away Fellaini’s shot. “Wilson for England,” they sang in that moment
Hull had looked like a side preparing for an FA Cup Final, which made their immediate riposte – a speculative 20-yard strike from substitute Matty Fryatt which eluded David de Gea - unexpected. There could even have been another United anti-climax from a season which has been full of them. De Gea could only scramble a Meyler shot out to Fryatt, whose reactions to the ball when unmarked in the six-yard box were fractionally too slow.
But then Giggs arrived – stretching, leaping, straining on the touchline and immersing himself once more on the turf which he has made his. To have prodded the ball past Alex Bruce and left him for dead – tearing one last defender apart - was perhaps as much as he could have asked for, before perhaps his final free kick. When Jakupovic had tipped it over the bar, both he and Giggs smiled, aware of how close they had come to a part in one more piece of legend.
There was time for possibly the last Giggs assist – he slipped the ball into Robin van Persie who was given ample room to shoot inside the box and then collect the rebound from Bruce to volley home United’s third. Giggs’ spoke briefly and so did Vidic. There was some final acclaim. And now United await the next chapter: the man to take them on.
Belfast Telegraph Digital