Manchester United vs. Hull City: 6 Things We Learned
Manchester United vs. Hull City proved an unsurprisingly emotional occasion. The result, meaningless in the course of United's season, was a nonetheless pleasing 3-1 win, but the things that will be remembered about this match concern the symbolism rather than the detail.
As Ryan Giggs spoke to the Old Trafford faithful and promised the good times were to return, we said goodbye to the club captain—and possibly to Giggs himself.
With an eye on both the symbolism and the football, here are six things we learned from watching.
James Wilson Is a Genuine Prospect
James Wilson has generated a good deal of buzz with his excellent performances at the youth level, but to score a brace on his senior debut marks out a different level of expectation.
He has now scored at the U18, U19 and U21 levels as well as with the senior squad for United this season.
To arrive on the biggest stage without looking the slightest bit overawed and to take his chances with clinical aplomb are no mean feats, and the youngster’s development will be intriguing to watch.
Success is not guaranteed from this point forward, as there are still many things that can go wrong.
However, given the excellent performances of Adnan Januzaj this season and the fact that Tom Lawrence looked assured in his senior debut, next season may be marked by the development of some young talent at United—something fans hold dear.
Adnan Januzaj's Early Promise Continues to Shine Through
If I had been asked to choose, I would have given Januzaj man of the match by a mile. His direct running, skill, invention and top-class delivery were all on show.
There was an intangible benefit to his performance too—seeing their former youth team colleague unafraid to take on the senior pros must have given a lift to Lawrence and Wilson. The unconscious message was sent that, although the stage is grander, the game is the same.
Assuming he can stay free from injury and is well-managed, next season could be one of further remarkable progress for the young man.
Nemanja Vidic Is Beloved by the Old Traford Faithful
Okay, this is not really something we learned on Monday night. It has been clear for over half a decade that the Stretford End have a special place in their hearts for the Serbian centre-half who has given his all for the cause.
However, it is certainly worth remarking upon, given that it marked the final time he will appear in United red at Old Trafford.
His song was sung throughout the game, but the highlight came during the post-match festivities. Giggs paused in his speech and allowed the crowd to take over, serenading their departing captain as the hairs on the back of every watching United fan's neck stood on end.
As Vidic himself addressed the crowd, song filled the air again. If there were dry eyes in the house, they were made of stern stuff.
Phil Jones Is Going to Have to Address His Injury Record
On such an emotional occasion, it feels almost churlish to address a specific footballing criticism, but Phil Jones once again left the Old Trafford pitch due to injury.
It is not yet clear how serious it is, but it was serious enough for him to miss 75 minutes of the game on Monday night.
If he is to become the player many believe he could be, he will have to find a way to look after his body better on the field.
Marouane Fellaini Will Have to Improve to Make a Contribution Next Season
Marouane Fellaini will be noted in the record books as providing assists for two of United's three goals. However, the first was a knockdown from a free-kick and the second was a saved shot—it was hardly the stuff of champions.
Fellaini has had a very difficult first season at United, facing injuries and association with an unpopular manager.
He still has his defenders amongst the United faithful, but their numbers must be diminishing. He continues to look as if he simply does not belong at the highest level.
Perhaps with a proper pre-season, he will improve next season, but that seems a long shot for now.
The Future Could Be Bright
With rumours swirling around about United's intentions at the top level of the transfer market, fans will draw tremendous optimism from the display of the three youngsters on show in this game.
As Giggs demonstrated his understanding of the club's history, he showed exactly why he—or those who share a similar connection to the club—should be part of the next manager's staff.
Giggs added during his speech on the pitch: "This is what this club's about. We never stand still. We always give youth a chance." #mufc— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 6, 2014
If this philosophy is paired with some key acquisitions and a manager who is suited to the job, United's future may be brighter than anyone would have speculated a month ago.