The Old Trafford crowd will be hoping to sample a victory in Manchester United’s final home game of the campaign when they host FA Cup finalists Hull City on Tuesday evening.
After a swell of positivity immersed the club following the appointment of Ryan Giggs and a subsequent 4-0 win over Norwich City, United's momentum was halted after a deplorable performance at home to Sunderland. It was a game that the Black Cats won 1-0 but should have won by more.
Hull City go into this one knowing their Premier League status is secured, with a day out at Wembley to look forward to at the end of the campaign. If you’d offered Tigers supporters that scenario back on the opening weekend of the campaign, you suspect Steve Bruce, his players and the Hull City supporters would have been delighted.
Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis believes the job done by Bruce should see him considered as a candidate for manager of the year, per Neil McLeman in the Mirror. Pulis stated that "for an unfashionable club like Hull, keeping them in the Premier League and then getting them to the FA Cup final is absolutely fantastic."
Who will win?
In truth, it’s a game both sides could probably do without. For United, it’s a clash that will prolong an awful season, with an awkward lap of appreciation to come after the 90 minutes is up.
For Bruce and his troops, focus will be squarely on the FA Cup final at this point and you suspect players will be doing their utmost to avoid injury and suspension ahead of the Wembley showpiece.
Nonetheless, you suspect that when both sides get out on the pitch they’ll be doing their absolute utmost to come out on top in the contest.
Here’s all the information you need on where to catch United’s final home game of the campaign on the box and via a stream.
Date: Tuesday 6 May 2014
Time: 7:45 p.m. (BST), 2:45 p.m. (ET)
Live Stream: Live on NBC Sports Live Extra (US), Highlights on Sky Go App at 10:15 p.m. (BST)
TV Info: Live on NBCSN (US), Highlights on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1 HD at 10:15 p.m. (BST)
Just when things were looking up for United, all the positivity that seemed to galvanise the club was sapped away in Week 37.
Relegation battlers Sunderland rocked up at Old Trafford and played with a passion, vigour and ingenuity that has been absent from Manchester United for this entire campaign.
Ahead of this one, United left-back Patrice Evra branded this season as "a disaster," per Paul Hirst of the Mail Online:
This year has been a disaster.
This year we have been really poor. We deserve all the criticism. We have not played well enough. We have lost some stupid games. When we are on the pitch we try to win every game but it's been so painful this season, it's been a nightmare.
When I look at the table I just feel a big frustration. This year is a season I want to forget really quickly.
With nothing of substance to play for, you suspect that the rest of the players and a significant portion of the United fanbase are of a similar mentality to Evra; they just want this campaign done and dusted.
But surely United owe their supporters a performance after their patience this campaign? A showing bristling with passion, desire and quality would at least offer Red Devils’ fans a crumb of comfort ahead a summer of uncertainty.
One positive for United is that Wayne Rooney could return, after he missed out against Sunderland due to injury:
Giggs says Wayne Rooney could return for #mufc vs Hull: "We will keep monitoring him and see how he is for Tuesday. Hopefully he'll play."— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 3, 2014
If they aren’t fully on their game, there’s every chance that Hull could turn them over. Whilst we’ve already touched on the potential effect the FA Cup final could have on the City players, they have a striking duo who will be desperate to make an impression.
Neither Nikica Jelavic or Shane Long are eligible to play in the Wembley showpiece, so expect both of them to start, and for both to pose United’s defence plenty of problems. The industry of Long and the goalscoring instincts of Jelavic have proven to be an excellent marriage since both players signed in January, with their goals crucial to Hull steering clear of relegation.
If Hull can get the ball into those two during the contest on a regular basis, then you’d certainly fancy the Tigers bagging a couple of goals. United’s defence looked especially ropey against Sunderland, and Hull carry a considerably more pertinent threat than the Black Cats in attacking areas.
Looking at the long-term, there could be a host of club icons donning United red for the final time at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
Nemanja Vidic is set for a well deserved farewell after he signed a pre-contract agreement with Inter Milan back in March, per BBC Sport. United fans will be keen to pay tribute to a player who has been an exceptional defender since signing for the club back in 2006:
Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand could also leave the club this summer, with their contracts also set to expire at the end of this season. Their futures remain especially uncertain.
So expect a strange atmosphere at Old Trafford, and it’ll certainly be interesting to gauge the reactions of some of the aforementioned players in the post-game lap of appreciation.
But don’t expect a United win here. They are a team devoid of confidence, direction or identity at the moment, and it’s difficult to see how that will have changed just three days after their terrible performance against Sunderland.
Hull will be cohesive, pragmatic and the striking duo will pose a real threat to the United back-four. They look certain to notch at least once at Old Trafford and that should be enough for them to secure a point.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 Hull City