Hull City 2 Manchester Utd 3: Hull City's James Chester will go down as the unfortunate author of a tale in which he scored twice, with the second goal put past his own goalkeeper to give his former club all three points at the KC Stadium.
The defender played only once for Manchester United – as a substitute back in 2009 – but after opening proceedings for the home side, produced the unwanted bookend by heading past Steve Harper, who replaced Allan McGregor at half-time, for the 66th-minute winner.
Chester might have completed an odd hat-trick at the death when, during Hull’s late rally, he blasted a shot at David de Gea but the Spaniard blocked his effort.
For the champions to fall 2-0 behind after 13 minutes had been a late Christmas present for Hull and the way to kill any festive cheer still being felt by United.
David Moyes's side, who were without Phil Jones – sidelined for a fortnight because of a knee injury – struggled for any kind of foothold during a breathless opening that featured Chester's strike and the second from Republic of Ireland midfielder David Meyler. The latter's may go down as an own goal to Jonny Evans but either way the defender will not want to see a repeat.
It was his weak clearance from Meyler’s initial shot that was returned to the midfielder. This time the Hull No7 hit the attempt on target and Evans stuck a toe on the ball to steer beyond a wrong-footed De Gea.
Chester's finish also derived from questionable defending. A Tom Huddlestone corner was aimed at Alex Bruce, who climbed above the stationary Patrice Evra and the header was smashed home from the right back.
All of this meant United were two behind against the Premier League’s meanest home defence. Steve Bruce’s band had allowed only three all term, but this was about to change.
For this, Moyes could thank the blessing in disguise that derived from Rafael Da Silva hobbling off on 18 minutes. Antonio Valencia dropped into the right back's berth and on came Adnan Januzaj. Moyes's introduction of the youngster to first-team proceedings has arguably been the best move of the Scot's nascent career at the club and a minute later Januzaj once more illustrated why.
The 18-year-old sped down United’s right and drew a foul from Maynor Figueroa from which his side would pull a goal back. This occurred when the so far out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney placed the free-kick perfectly on Chris Smalling’s head and he beat McGregor to clinch a first league goal of the season.
This warm-up act from Rooney was followed by a scintillating main event. An Evans hail Mary was aimed towards the front of United and when the ball came to Rooney from a Danny Welbeck chest-down, the Liverpudlian creamed a blistering 25-yard volley past the hapless McGregor.
At the break each manager might have asked their teams to tighten up their rearguards while maintaining the flowing, attacking stuff. If so, United were the first to adhere to the instruction when slick interplay from Rooney and Januzaj threatened to give the visitors the lead.
Hull's response came when Danny Graham fed Yannick Sagbo and he warmed De Gea's fingers with a 20-yard attempt that went for a corner. Here, again, United's vulnerability under a high ball was spied as Huddlestone's corner was met by Curtis Davies, who left the unimpressive Smalling behind, and the defender's header flashed wide.
The same result came from a Huddlestone effort though this time an Evra deflection was required. Now, Hull suffered a dose of bad luck when Bruce saw a header crash back off the bar from the ensuing corner.
Javier Hernández, on for a Darren Fletcher making his first start for a year, spurned the chance to play in Welbeck who was clear. But Chester's second – and unwanted – goal of the game was about to send United home happy though the sight of Valencia being sent off following a second yellow card after a clash with Huddlestone will not please Moyes.