Premier League | KC Stadium | Thu 26 Dec | 12:45pm
Jolly old Steve Bruce has the extended family over for a Boxing Day kickabout.
David Moyes will certainly be in more of a festive mood than he was two weeks ago - and not just because it wasn't actually Christmas two weeks ago.
Back-to-back home defeats to Everton and Newcastle had left something of a dark cloud looming over Old Trafford, but spirited wins over Aston Villa and West Ham brought Moyes some cheer - not least as his Manchester United youngsters have really come to the fore.
Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Adnan Januzaj have all impressed, and although the Albanian-cum-Belgian-cum-Kosovan-cum-non-Englishman has been turning most heads, it should be noted that Welbeck is also in strong form, even if he’s only just now starting to get the goals to show for it.
- WBA 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 0-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Hull (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 3-1 West Ham (Prem)
- Stoke 0-2 Man Utd (LC)
- Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 1-0 Shakhtar (CL)
- Man Utd 0-1 Newcastle (Prem)
There have also been improved showings from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young – a Christmas miracle indeed. United may be bottom of what looks set to effectively become a breakaway ‘big eight’ league, but good form over the festive period could bring them back into touching distance with the top four. Do that, and this season doesn’t have to be a write-off for the champions just yet.
But the first of those merry match-ups will be this testing trip to Humberside, where former United hero Bruce has quietly gone about making Hull a tough nut to crack (we could mention how people eat nuts at Christmas, but we don’t want to labour the point).
The Tigers have conceded as few goals as Manchester City and United, and fewer than Newcastle or Spurs. The problem has been at the other end, where they’ve scored just twice in their last four matches.
Despite this handicap, Hull sit comfortably in 12th, seven points away from the drop zone. Bruce certainly deserves great credit for his work up to this point. Few pre-season predictions had the Tigers finishing anywhere other than in the bottom two, and although the finishing line is still a long way from view, the Yorkshiremen look like they should have enough to secure their Premier League status with relative comfort.
The 53-year-old clearly isn’t one of the game’s more glamorous figures, but a look at his track record suggests he’s an under-appreciated and under-rated coach. Hey, this is the season of goodwill…
Hull are hoping to welcome former Manchester United trainee Robbie Brady back from a groin injury, although they will still be without midfielder Stephen Quinn (hamstring) and forward Sone Aluko (ankle).
United have confirmed that Marouane Fellaini has undergone surgery on a wrist injury, which is likely to rule him out for at least six weeks. Fellow midfielder Michael Carrick is still sidelined with an Achilles injury, while Robin van Persie's thigh injury and Nani's thigh twang will see the pair miss the festive period. Welbeck should recover from the knee knock picked up against West Ham.
Key battle: Jake Livermore vs Tom Cleverley
Livermore’s arrival at Hull was somewhat overshadowed by that of his former Spurs team-mate Tom Huddlestone, but the 24-year-old loanee has performed well in the Hull engine room, and his brand of determined, high-energy play will be needed if the Tigers are to have any chance of stopping United finding their rhythm. He was a key figure in the recent win over Liverpool – making tackles in the defensive half, and interceptions in the attacking half.
Cleverley has become United’s midfield metronome in Michael Carrick’s absence, and his performance in their last away game (the 3-0 win at Villa Park) showed again that he can not only distribute the ball tidily (he completed at least 26 more passes than any other player on the pitch), but also move into attacking positions when the time is right – he scored from 1 of his 2 shots on target, his only other shot was blocked.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Man Utd 4-0 Hull (Prem, Jan 10)
- Hull 1-3 Man Utd (Prem, Dec 09)
- Hull 0-1 Man Utd (Prem, May 09)
- Man Utd 4-3 Hull (Prem, Nov 08)
- Hull 0-1 Man Utd (LC, Oct 87)
United boss Moyes has this week been full of praise for Bruce, telling the Daily Star: “Steve has done a great job. When he took the Hull job I think people thought they weren’t a club going in the right direction.
“He has turned that around and did brilliantly to get them up last season. He then signed well with the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore and Allan McGregor. But he will know his job is to make sure Hull stay up in their first year back in the Premier League – that's a big thing after winning promotion.”
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Hull have been involved in the lowest scoring games this season with 13 of their 17 fixtures providing fewer than 3 goals.
- Steve Bruce has not beaten Man United as manager of any of his previous clubs, losing 14 of his 18 matches.
- Man United have a great Boxing Day record winning 16 of their previous 17 fixtures and have won their last 7 in all competitions with Hull.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
Not for the first time this season, Hull perform well against one of the big hitters but leave empty handed. 0-2.