Manchester United host Steve Bruce’s Hull side today in the final home game in a season to forget for fans and players alike.
Home comforts have been in short supply with Saturday’s dreadful 1-0 loss to Sunderland a record seventh loss at Old Trafford in the league this year, which means United have actually lost more times at home this season than in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 campaigns combined.
Old Trafford was hardly a safe haven for David Moyes with the Scotsman’s tenure playing out amidst a backdrop of several failing on home soil. Big defeats against rivals Liverpool and Manchester City contributed to Moyes’ sacking while Ryan Giggs’ second game in charge was a home loss too.
As such, the squad will be raring to end on a high note at the Theatre of Dreams in a game which will almost certainly see Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs make their final appearances in front of their home crowd and several other players playing potentially their last game in M16 for the Reds.
United have been in patchy form of late having looked relatively convincing in a 4-0 thrashing of an awful Norwich before the disappointing defeat at the hands of fellow relegation battlers Sunderland at the weekend, which all but confirmed the Reds will miss out on European competition all together next season.
According to stand-in boss Giggs, Wayne Rooney is unlikely to be ready thanks to a groin problem while Jonny Evans has played his last game this season after sustaining an ankle ligament injury.
Rafael could return while Ashley Young and Nani are almost certain to drop out after woeful showings at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Hull have fared impressively in their first season back in the top flight under Steve Bruce. The Tigers, while rarely being far from controversy off the pitch, have kept things professional on it, steering clear of relegation all season and being almost assured of survival since early March.
Bruce’s side also have an FA Cup final against Arsenal to look forward to in what has been an excellent first season for the Humberside outfit.
If there was one criticism of the Tigers, it is that perhaps over the last month they have somewhat taken their foot off the pedal having won just once in their previous five games in the league. They come into the fixture on the back of a convincing defeat to Aston Villa last time out.
Allan McGregor is still out with a kidney injury while former United old-boys Robbie Brady and Paul McShane are long-term absentees. James Chester, another ex-Red is set to miss out through injury too.
The last time the two sides met was Boxing Day where United eventually triumphed 3-2 after going two goals down inside 13 minutes. Goals from Smalling, Rooney and a Chester own goal completed a rare comeback victory for the Reds.
Hull have never kept a clean sheet at Old Trafford having conceding 30 goals in ten visits, and have kept just two clean sheets on the road this term (only Fulham boast a worse record). In their previous ten trips to United, Hull boast a solitary point.
Peculiarly, the Reds’ last six league matches have seen them either score four and win or fail to score and lose, which is certainly an interesting record. This is a game which really could go either way with the duo of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long impressing since they joined for a combined fee of £12 million in January.
Surely United will put in a decent performance here with several legends of previous seasons playing on the hallowed Old Trafford turf for the final time. Vidic and co. definitely deserve to bow out on a high but only a fool would predict that with any confidence after the way this season has gone.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Hull City