Manchester United produced its best performance yet to beat Hull City 3-0, according to manager Louis van Gaal.
The Red Devils dominated from first kick to last on the way to an emphatic win, as United looked to solidify its spot in the top four.
Chris Smalling willed home the ball at the second attempt following Hull’s failure to effectively clear a Wayne Rooney corner, narrowly forcing the ball over the line with a volley from a tight angle after the Hull keeper Allan McGregor punched the ball in his direction.
The goal was just rewards for a fine week for the defender who came under intense scrutiny after a diabolical performance in the Manchester derby.
With all the play and a goal in the opening 16 minutes, United was well on its way to a big win and it delivered on the promise of the opening exchanges.
Angel di Maria pulled up short with a hamstring injury, but not even that curbed United’s momentum with his replacement Ander Herrera coming on and becoming arguably the best on ground with a pristine midfield performance.
Herrera hustled hard in the middle of the park, winning plenty of ball and distributing it well to keep United moving forward.
Michael Carrick impressed once again as well, showing plenty of class on the ball and reading the play well off it.
Wayne Rooney kept up his good form with a beautiful finish from outside the box when he received a lay-off from Robin van Persie.
The England and United captain picked his spot beautifully, sweeping a gorgeous finish into the bottom left corner to put his side 2-0 up heading into the break.
Hull enjoyed a bright period to open the second half but only managed a tame shot at David de Gea.
Van Persie almost repeated his World Cup heroics when he latched onto a beautiful Carrick pass but was denied by McGregor and the offside flag.
He would not be denied later when he was fed by Herrera.
Seemingly going nowhere, van Persie stood up his marker, knocked the ball slightly to his left and rifled an absolute rocket into the roof of the net from all of 20 yards off one step.
Under fire for much of the last month, it was a goal van Persie desperately needed, but he celebrated it with all the style of a man who scores spectacular goals for fun – raising both hands triumphantly and beaming a big smile to the crowd.
He was replaced shortly after by the returning Radamel Falcao, who showed plenty of class in his 20-minute cameo, only denied a fairytale goal on return by a brilliant last-ditch block from Michael Dawson.
Van Gaal said it was United’s best performance of the season.
“It is the first match that we have dominated the game from the first minute until the last minute and in a way that I like,” van Gaal said.
“We knew already in advance that Hull would come probably with five defenders and a full midfield. We have trained to play the ball quick and we did it but also we didn’t give too many unnecessary balls away.
“So that was also an improvement on the Arsenal match. I was very pleased with the performance and the result and I have told the players that.
“We had great creative moments in the game and the creation of the chances.”