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Preview: Hull City v United

December 24, 2013 Tags: , Matches 8 comments
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Who’d have thunk it, Steve Bruce, the old bruiser, perhaps the last Manchester United central defender genuinely out of the old school: football hipster. Bruce was never technically the strongest as a player and has rarely been considered a coaching innovator, yet has consistently impressed in his flexibility as manager of Hull City. Bruce’s bravery in deploying a back-three in the Premier League this season matches the curiosity of the side doing so in the Championship last.

Bruce’s approach will pose a different challenge to United – one of breaking down a defensively sound, if inferior opponent, and doing it on the road. After all, Hull boasts one of the finest defensive records in Europe having conceded just three times at home this season. In that just one home defeat has come – a surprise defeat to Crystal Palace in November.

Indeed, Hull has garnered 20 points this season, more than half way on to the 40 that typically guarantees Premier League survival. After all, since the Premier League shifted to 20 teams, just three have gone down with more than 40 points: Sunderland on 40 in 1997, Bolton Wanderers on 40 in 2003, and West Ham United with 42 in 2003.

With a home match to come against Fulham before New Year’s day Bruce has good reason feel confident of his team’s chances of remaining in the top division. Little wonder the former Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland manager is achieving plaudits this season.

It is an opportunity in the top division that might not have come Bruce’s way had Hull not been promoted last season. After all, the 52-year-old was sacked as manager of Sunderland in November 2011 with the Mackems bottom of the Premier League. It was a humiliating end to his time on Wearside, which preposterously Bruce claimed was due to his Newcastle roots.

“Steve Bruce has done a good job with Hull – he has really brought them back,” Moyes said Monday.

“They looked as though they were dipping and going in the wrong direction. I think he has done a great job in getting momentum going again. They have got some good players and they will be a hard team to beat, as they have had a decent first half to the season.

“You have either got to score plenty of goals or not concede goals – it is one or the other. If they have a good base and are hard to beat, that is something they can build on and hope for that odd goal here and there to win the games. We know it will be a tough game at Hull.”

Hull City v Manchester United, Premier League, KC Stadium, 26 December 2013, 12.45pmUnited travel east still nursing a rash of injuries, although striker Robin van Persie is not far away from full fitness and will feature early in the New Year. However, Marouanne Fellaini will miss another two months having undergone wrist surgery this week. Nani and Nemanja Vidić also remain on the sidelines.

Injuries leave Moyes short in central midfield, although with three games to come in six days from Boxing Day to New Years the Scot has little choice but to rotate.

Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones may again get the nod in central midfield at Hull, although Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Anderson are also available. Michael Carrick is close to a return and there is an outside chance he may feature at Hull.

Elsewhere, Ashley Young is pushing for a start having scored twice in as many games, while Shinji Kagawa has sat out much of the past month with illness and is due some game time in a busy period.

“Robin is progressing, he’s coming on, and he is feeling quite good,” said Moyes.

“He had a similar injury at Arsenal on his thigh, so it is something we have to be sure about [before he returns]. It wouldn’t be much good if it got repeated, so we will try to take it steady. Obviously the medical team are controlling, but we speak to Robin as well about how he feels. We’re doing everything we can to make sure he’s well looked after and well treated.

“We just couldn’t get [Fellaini] recovered from his back injury. We thought his back would be okay after 10 days but it wasn’t getting any better, so we made a quick decision to get his wrist operated on, to get it done quickly.”

Meanwhile, Bruce could field an unchanged side for the fourth game in succession, although former Red Robbie Brady is unlikely to be fit, while Sone Aluko and Stephen Quinn are both out. Former Reds James Chester, and Paul McShane will feature in the matchday squad.

It has been a campaign in which expectations on the pitch are being met from a newly promoted side, although there remains some angst on the terraces with owner Assem Allam having applied to rename the club ‘Hull Tigers’. The FA will rule by next summer – in the meantime Hull supporters’ vociferous campaign to retain 100 years of tradition is gaining momentum.

Still, with United in town supporter unrest will be put aside for a moment, with Hull seeking a first victory against the Reds in 38 years.

“Over the Christmas period, we host the champions and they’ve run into some form which you would expect them to do,” said Bruce.

“Traditionally it’s the biggest gate you have and it’s just a great occasion for all of us. When Man United come to town, it’s the biggest and best occasion. For all of us at Hull, what better thing to have than have them on Boxing Day.

“We’re all getting used to David Moyes standing there but the change has happened. Let’s enjoy the challenge and see if we can take something off them.”

History points to an away victory, with United having beaten the Tigers on the last seven meetings. Hull won a Division Two encounter at Boothferry Park in 1975.

Today, the the home side has made a new fortress at the KC, with Bruce surely confident that while United remains favourites to secure another crucial three points it’s unlikely to be anything as one side as the last meeting between these two sides – a 4-0 United victory in 2010.

Hull City v Manchester United v West Ham United, Premier League, KC Stadium, 12.45pm, 26 December 2013

Teams
Hull (3-5-2): McGregor; Chester, Bruce, Davies; Elmohamedy, Livermore, Huddlestone, Meyler, Figueroa; Sagbo, Graham. Subs from: Harper, McShane, Faye, Rosenior, Koren, Fryatt, Boyd

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra; Giggs, Jones; Valencia, Kagawa, Young; Rooney. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fabio, Ferdinand, Buttner, Januzaj, Zaha, Anderson, Cleverley, Fletcher, Welbeck, Hernández

Head-to-head
Hull 5 Draw 3 United 16

Officials (all Serbian)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: S Bennett, S Ledger
Fourth Official: D Whitestone

Prediction
0-2

Matchday Forum discussion

8 comments

kidane hailu - December 24, 2013 Reply

the time to get 3 point

Dayus D red - December 24, 2013 Reply

We only get to read match previews these days and not the reactions. Anyway nice preview.

Ed - December 26, 2013 Reply

Reaction from me? Yeah I try but seriously busy with work and two little Ranters so it’s sometimes difficult to post as much as I’d really like to. Reactions from other readers tends to be on the forum because WordPress will not sync up phpBB3. Join the forum it’s usually pretty busy on matchdays.

Denton Davey - December 24, 2013 Reply

“Injuries leave Moyes short in central midfield, although with three games to come in six days from Boxing Day to New Years”

It seems to me that being “short in central midfield” is the kind of situation that has literally forced AgentMoyes to tinker which has led to an abandonment of the old-fashioned 4-4-2 and the shift of TheWayneBoy into a floating role – at the tip of the midfield trio/at the base of the attacking diamond – which is exactly the kind of role that’s perfect for the T-E-A-M.

When I watched the previous couple/three matches, I saw TheWayneBoy up-front as well as taking the ball from the central defenders – in the usual football colloquialism, he was covering every blade of grass. He not only fortified the midfield but also provided excellent linkage with the three attackers.

A knock-on benefit of using TheWayneBoy in TheScholesRole is that it gives both YoungTom and MrJones exactly the kind of situation in which they can excel in what amounts to a three-man midfield.

TheWayneBoy might not like this job but it gets the most out of him which is critical because he’s still UTD’s best player and most valuable player – even if his agent gets him to act like a dickhead, some of the time

Over the next few months it’s going to be very, very interesting to watch the negotiations over his next contract play themselves out, even if we can’t get anything like inside information.

In the next few weeks it’s going to be very interesting in a very different way – what will AgentMoyes do when he has the comparative luxury of adding MC16 and RVP to what looks like a team that is increasingly comfortable with a 4-3-3.

The rookie - December 25, 2013 Reply

I’d like to see Kagawa play the same role as TheWayneBoy has been playing. Connecting the the mid field and attack is his thing right?

I wish he had played a bit better and really impressed this season, but if wishes were horses we’d all be eating steak.

I’d also like to rest Rooney this match but I think we’re gonna need him to break down Hull Tigers, chicha just isnt connecting currently.

I feel a bit nervous for this one.

Denton Davey - December 25, 2013 Reply

The rookie @ 3:05: “chicha just isnt connecting currently”

That’s just not true – he hardly gets playing time and when he does there’s often no “service” or else a perfectly-good goal is whistled-off incorrectly (as against West Ham).

For Chicharito to be at his best he NEEDS the wingers to be playing better. Most of UTD’s attacking play seems to go down the right hand side of the pitch when AV25 and LittleRedRafa are combining, but the final ball is usually lacking.

Of course, I’m biased in that opinion – Chicharito is one of my very favourite players and I think he’s been give a raw deal in terms of playing time. However, I understand that it’s a team-game and sometimes – as with Dimmy before him and, nowadays, KagawaBunga – guys just don’t work in combination: “square-pegs-in-round-holes”.

The Rookie - December 25, 2013 Reply

Yeah I agree.

Denton Davey - December 27, 2013 Reply

First things first, it was great to see DarrenFletcherinho back ! How much have TheLads missed this guy ?

Finally, “luck” seems to be turning towards UTD – against Newcastle and Everton, TheLads had a large share of the play and hit goal-posts/cross-bars but nothing was working whereas today OwenGoal and the goal-post/cross-bar kept out Alex Bruce’s header. Do these things really even themselves out ? Hull’s two goals were the result of a terrible corner-decision and sloppy defending but, otherwise, TheLads mostly kept them at arm’s length.

Ashley Young reverted to AshleyBloodyYoung; AV25 was largely ineffective – how often does this guy produce any end-product ? Losing LittleRedRafa for another month/six weeks must finally give Fabio a chance to get an extended run-of-games. BigManSmalling still looks like he’s walking on egg-shells and his passing-from-the-back is just awful – let’s hope that AgentMoyes doesn’t play him at right back ! Apart from his gaffe on the second goal, Jonny Evans was solid; YoungTom was likewise solid without being very impressive although I’d assume that if that sweet curler had ended up in the goal then my evaluation of his performance would be quite different. Adnan was very good and so was DannyTheLad. TheWayneBoy and DDG were UTD’s best players – again.

The interesting aspect of the match in terms of formation/strategy was the distance between #9 and #10 – while TheWayneBoy wasn’t always playing in “midfield” and DannyTheLad wasn’t always leading-the-line, AgentMoyes mixed things up a bit but there was only one striker and the other guy was an “attacking midfielder”. As is so often the case, this worked best when it was TheWayneBoy who was further back.

To me – and it’s just me ! – I’d like to see TheLads play a revised version of a 4-3-3 with two midfielders (one of them playing very deep, which is the way that MrJones was mostly deployed in the previous matches and the way in which MC16 is usually positioned), no wingers ! – the fullbacks can (and do) provide width – and either DannyTheLad or Chicharito playing as the lead-the-line-guy in front of a diamond of AdnanJ/RVP on the inside right/left and TheWayneBoy being given the freedom to play at the base of the diamond, as a “rover”. Is that ten outfield players if we allow for two central defenders, the best pairing being CaptainVidic and Jonny Evans ? Anyhow, the abysmal quality of UTD’s wingers has meant that it pains me to say but TheLads are playing every game at a disadvantage when Young/Nani/Valencia are on the pitch.

In contrast to last season’s procession, this one is very interesting and you have to think that it would really, really, really stick in the craw of ABUs if TheLads were to win the trophy again.

ps Happy New Year to Mongoletsi, Alfonso Bedoya and Pikey McScum. More warm/fuzzy feelings.

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