forward at every opportunity.
The focal point for most attacks was giant striker Fernando Llorente, he of 21 goals before kick-off, and it was the Spaniard who had the visitors’ first sight of goal on four minutes. The skilful front man twisted and turned on the edge of the box to create space before curling an effort just wide 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.