of David De Gea’s left-hand post.
Iker Muniain found himself within a whisker of latching onto a lovely ball over the top from Javi Martinez soon after, but thankfully the pass ran through to De Gea.
United took time to get going as an attacking force – a tame low drive from Hernandez, straight at goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, was pretty much all the Reds could muster in the opening 20 minutes. Indeed, Sir Alex’s men were being forced to play on the break as Athletic Club dominated proceedings.
But after surviving a couple of scares – the referee waved away Llorente’s penalty appeals after tangling with Smalling and Markel Susaeta shot straight at De Gea – the Reds took a somewhat surprise lead on 22 minutes. Hernandez played a neat one-two with Ryan Giggs before the Mexican fired low at Iraizoz who could only parry the ball into the path of the onrushing Rooney to blast home his 23rd goal of the campaign from six yards.
The goal did little to dent Athletic Club’s spirit and endeavour; in fact, the visitors appeared to grow in confidence as the openings in United’s half kept coming. Llorente headed over after a whipped cross from Oscar de Marcos down the right, before Susaeta was presented with a glorious chance just after the half-hour. Ander Herrera dinked a pass forward to Susaeta who burst clear of Jonny Evans but rather than take the ball on towards goal, he opted to lob De Gea and saw his effort drop wide.
Soon after, right-back Andoni Iraola did manage to test the Spanish keeper after a burst forward, but De Gea was equal to it and turned it round the post.