Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, second left, is congratulated by teammate Tom Cleverley after scoring against Hull City during their English Premier League soccer match at the KC Stadium, Hull, England, Thursday Dec. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Hull City 2-3 Manchester United: Visitors come back to take all three points (video)

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Hull City were up 2-0 by the 13th minute, but the visitors had pulled even before the half-hour mark. In the end it was an own goal from Hull that gave Manchester United all three points.

The first half sent up a thrill a minute — or it sure seemed that way for the first half-hour. Before five minutes were up, Hull City capitalized on the visitors’ defensive weaknesses. Alex Bruce climbed above Patrice Evra to nod on Tom Huddlestone’s inswinging corner. James Chester got his foot on the end of Bruce’s header to volley in the opening goal.

Upon review, however, it was clear the corner never should have been given. A tangle between Tom Cleverly and Ahmed Elmohamady prompted the referee to award the kick to Hull, but replays showed it was Elmohamady that knocked the ball out of play.

Unfortunately for United, goal-line technology could do nothing to help in this instance, and the visitors were left chasing the game. They made it worse for themselves in the 13th minute when failing to clear a rather weak shot from David Meyler. With the ball pinging around the area, Jonny Evans got a foot to it…only to knock it past David De Gea.

An injury to Rafael gave David Moyes the opportunity to change his squad’s approach to the game. Rather than make a like-for-like switch, the United manager brought on Adnan Januzaj to introduce a more attacking element into the match. The change worked.

Moments later, the youngster had won a free kick, leading to United’s first goal. Chris Smalling climbed over his marker, nodding in the free kick from Wayne Rooney to pull his side within a goal of Hull.

And, by the 26th minute, Rooney himself had put his side level. It was a lovely goal from the United man, who took advantage of a failed clearance by Curtis Davies. Rooney hit the ball on the half-volley, sending in a swerving strike that smashed under the crossbar and fell behind Alan McGregor.

The second half brought plenty of action as well, although not nearly as many goals. In fact, there was just one: the one that gave all three points to Manchester United.

In the 63rd minute, Bruce very nearly put his side back in front, but his header smacked off the post. United quickly took the ball to the other end, flustering the Hull defense.

Maynor Figueroa completely mistimed a challenge on Ashley Young, allowing the winger to put a lovely ball into the area. Chester, scorer of the first goal for the Tigers, rose up in an attempt to keep Rooney from scoring a second. Instead his header bounced past substitute keeper Steve Harper and into the back of the net. The Hull City defender was very nearly in tears after his mistake.

Hull did their best to grab their share of the spoils in stoppage time. Antonio Valencia got himself sent off in the 90th minute, receiving a second yellow for petulantly kicking away the ball. The hosts took advantage and Chester was nearly able to atone for his mistake, but De Gea was there to make the save.

Hull City: McGregor (Harper 45), Chester, Bruce, Davies, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler (Koren 45), Figueroa (Boyd 73), Sagbo, Graham

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael (Januzaj 18), Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Fletcher (Hernández 63), Young (Carrick 78), Rooney, Welbeck

agbo, Graham

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]