Teenage striker James Wilson marked his senior debut for Manchester United with two goals in a 3-1 victory over Hull in the Premier League today, keeping alive the team’s chances of qualifying for the Europa League.
The 18-year-old Wilson showed why he is so highly rated at Old Trafford by scoring predatory goals in the 31st and 61st minutes before being substituted to a standing ovation.
Matty Fryatt replied for Hull in the 63rd, only for substitute Robin van Persie to wrap up the points for United in the 86th.
United moved three points behind sixth-place Tottenham in the race for the final European spot available in the league with one game remaining. United last failed to qualify for Europe in 1990.
Ryan Giggs, taking charge of his third game as United’s interim manager following the departure of David Moyes, came on as a second-half substitute for what could be his last appearance after 23 years at the club.
Giggs has not decided whether to carry on playing next season and his future at United is uncertain while the club searches for Moyes’ replacement, which is likely to be current Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
Addressing supporters on the pitch after the final whistle, Giggs hailed Wilson by saying: “You have seen a little glimpse of the future, this is what this club is about, we never stand still.”
With Hull safe from relegation and with an FA Cup final against Arsenal looming, while United is out of contention for Champions League qualification after a miserable season, the game had a pre-season feel to it. There was also an end-of-an-era look to United’s lineup.
Giggs handed senior debuts to Wilson and 20-year-old forward Tom Lawrence, fielded 19-year-old Adnan Januzaj on the wing and started with a back four that included youngsters Alex Buttner, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Stars such as Van Persie, Juan Mata and Nemanja Vidic had to be content with places on the bench alongside Giggs.
Vidic did not have to wait long to come on for his last appearance at Old Trafford before a summer move to Inter Milan, replacing Jones in the 22nd minute after he came off following a clash of heads. Vidic was earlier presented with a momento by United great Bobby Charlton for his decade of service at United.
Big things are expected of Wilson, who has played for England Under-16s and Under-19s and has scored 19 goals for United’s Under-21 team this season.
His striker’s instinct was there to see just after the half-hour mark, reacting quickly to Marouane Fellaini’s nod-down from a free kick to slam a left-foot shot low into the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
When he slotted in a rebound from a similar distance after Fellaini’s shot was parried out by goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, Wilson was on course to emulate Wayne Rooney’s feat from 2004 of scoring a hat trick on his debut. He was substituted three minutes later, however, but the Old Trafford crowd will surely be seeing more of him.
Giggs at the other end of the age spectrum at 40 came on for his 963rd appearance for United after 70 minutes and showed flashes of the brilliance that has illuminated Old Trafford since 1991.
With the home fans chanting “Keeper, let it in,” Giggs saw his long-range free kick tipped over by Jakupovic in injury time perhaps bringing to an end his run of scoring in every Premier League season since its inception in 1992.