Sunday 24th May – 15:00 – KC Stadium
Hull City host Manchester United live on, with the Tigers needing victory for any hope of Premier League survival. Steve Bruce’s men sit two points from Newcastle going into the final day, but their superior goal difference means anything but victory for the Magpies gives Hull the chance to stay up with a win. They face a tough battle to take the points and end a run of three defeats, though, as they face a Manchester United side which has vastly improved over the course of the season. The pressure is off Louis van Gaal’s men, who are guaranteed a Champions League place and look set to finish fourth, as they need Arsenal to lose and an eight-goal swing to overtake the Gunners, who they drew 1-1 with last weekend. Hull also faced North London opposition last time out, losing 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur – their third defeat in a row. A former Red Devils player himself, Steve Bruce has never beaten Manchester United as a manager in 21 previous attempts in all competitions, so will be hoping for a dramatic change of fortunes at the KC Stadium on Sunday, otherwise his team are down.
The Key Battle: Dame N’Doye vs Chris Smalling
It’s all about goals for Hull City on Sunday, but worrying thing is – they don’t score many. They’ve not hit the back of the net in the last two games and have failed to score in the final match of their previous three Premier League seasons, all of which were at home.
What’s more, since the start of 2014, the Tigers have scored the fewest goals in the Premier League (49 in 56 games) of the 17 sides that have been in the division throughout that period. That’s despite investing £27 million on strikers in that time.
One of those players was Dame N’Doye, who signed from Lokomotiv Moscow in January. Without his five goals (making him Hull’s second top scorer), the Tigers would already been down, and now they need one more vital strike from N’Doye, who would become a club hero if he kept them up.
If Chris Smalling plays on Sunday, it will be the defender’s 100th Premier League appearance for the club, and his 99th last weekend against Arsenal saw him named stand in captain.
He says that United “want to finish the season on a high”, but the facts show that the Red Devils have conceded at least one goal in eight consecutive league matches for the first time since May to September 2001. They have not gone nine games without a clean sheet since August to October 1999. Is this an opportunity for Hull to hit the back of the net?
Smalling himself got on the scoresheet when these two sides met earlier in the season as he prodded home from a corner. It is one of four goals the 25 year old has scored this season – his highest ever tally in one campaign, and equals the last three seasons put together.
Funnily enough, only two Hull players have scored more in 2014-15, Dame N’Doye being one of them.
- Steve Bruce could name an unchanged side for the game, despite losing three games in a row.
- That means Nikica Jelavic will retain his starting berth alongside Dame N’Doye upfront following the Croatian’s return from injury.
- Jake Livermore remains suspended, whilst Curtis Davies, Mohamed Diame, Gaston Ramirez and Robert Snodgrass are all sidelined.
- Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is on standby to make his first start for Manchester United if David De Gea fails to overcome a hamstring injury.
- Wayne Rooney returns from a dead leg, but Jonny Evans is unlikely to do the same after both missed last weekend’s game against Arsenal.
- Luke Shaw, Rafael and Michael Carrick remain out, whilst Andreas Pereira is still unavailable because of international commitments with the Brazilian Under 20 squad.
Hull City wins = 4 / Manchester United wins = 18 / Draws = 3
Last Meeting: Manchester United 3-0 Hull City (29th November 2014)
Robin van Persie’s powerful strike capped an impressive win for Manchester United over Hull and offered the perfect response to those who have questioned the Dutchman’s early-season form. By the time Van Persie turned on the edge of the area to arrow an unstoppable shot into the top corner in the 66th minute, United were well on their way to a routine victory. Chris Smalling had scrambled them into an early lead, and any real doubt about the outcome disappeared when Wayne Rooney added a second before half-time.
Stat of the Match
Manchester United have won 10 successive competitive fixtures against Hull, including seven straight Premier League victories. They have scored three goals or more in six of those seven victories.
Where can I watch it?
To see how the drama unfolds, tune into Sky Sports 3 from 2:55pm on Sunday afternoon or press the red button on Sky Sports 1 – the game kicks off five minutes later. The other crucial game between Newcastle and West Ham is on Sky Sports 1 from 2pm. Highlights of both, and all the day’s games are on Match of the Day, for the final time this season, which starts at 10:30pm on BBC One.
My Prediction: Hull City 1-2 Manchester United
I can’t see Hull or Newcastle winning on Sunday, and the Tigers certainly have the harder the challenge. They could well score and perhaps take the lead through Nikica Jelavic, but overall United’s superior quality could show and goals from Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata will end their season on a high and relegate Hull to the Championship.
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