Wayne Rooney scores a cracker against Hull City in December
Manchester United host Hull City in what is the final home league game of the season at Old Trafford. United go into the match off the back of another home defeat, this time to relegation threatened Sunderland who won for the first time since 1968. Interim manager Ryan Giggs spoke of United’s “flatness” following the defeat and in comparison to the 4-0 thrashing of Norwich City the week previous. In a strange season that saw David Moyes fail to meet the necessary demands of succeeding the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, most United fans are readily looking forward to the summer and to see who will take over at the helm.
Hull City are now safe in the Premier League despite a late flirtation with relegation and all eyes are firmly set on the FA Cup Final against Arsenal on the 17th May. The only time Hull City have taken a point off of United at Old Trafford was in the 1923/24 season, with a 1-1 draw – however, in a season that has been alien to many Reds – you wouldn’t put it past the visitors getting something out of the game. Wayne Rooney is expected to be fit for the game, having missed the match at the weekend.
We caught up with Andy Dalton who blogs over at www.ambernectar.org who put together a great view from the oppo, where we discuss the FA Cup Final, David Moyes sacking and the best Hull City player of all time! You can follow the guys on Twitter @Amber__Nectar.
1) How would you sum up your season? Is Steve Bruce the right man to lead you forward?
This has been the greatest season in our history. Safety in the Premier League was mathematically ensured with two games remaining, itself a fine achievement, but has been in little doubt for some months now. Couple that with an FA Cup Final (our first) and qualification for Europe next season (another first), and this is without doubt the best period in our 110 year existence. And that’s all thanks to Steve Bruce – an unfashionable man leading an unfashionable club, who seem a perfect fit for one another.
2) Now that you’re safe, looking back – how close were Hull City to relegation considering the quality of the clubs at the bottom?
The League table suggests we’re close-ish, but even eternally fatalistic City fans have been certain of survival for quite a while. It’d be a shame if our League form peters out and we finish 17th, which’d be our lowest berth of the season, but we’ve always felt City were a fair bit better than a few others.
3) Your form has been poor in recent weeks (one win in six) – is this due to one eye on the cup final?
Probably! We have no frame of reference for any of this. All the fans can talk about is the Cup Final, so it’s understandable if the players think the same – after all, for plenty of them it’s unchartered waters as well.
4) How do you think you will get on against Arsenal in the final? Are you a football betting man?!
If Arsenal turn up, we’ll lose – they’re an awful lot better than us, so we’re under no illusions. But if they have an off-day, and we have a good day – well, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock in FA Cup history…right?
5) Who has been your best player this season? Also, who wouldn’t you mind to see the back off?
Curtis Davies has been a revelation. When we picked him up from Birmingham last summer, I feared we were in for a long season of frustrating concessions, I’d never particularly rated him and thought he was a mistake waiting to happen. Instead he’s been outstanding, and most of all, consistent – not easy in a team that loses more than it wins, but he’s been immense. There aren’t many players I’d ship out, though a few of them have their associations with the club coming to an end.
Robert Koren’s silky career is coming to a close, Nick Proschwitz has been so disappointing that even Barnsley don’t want to keep him, while I think Maynor Figueroa isn’t the long-term answer at left-back.
6) What did you make of David Moyes being sacked and who do you think will replace him?
Surprised, and a little disappointed too. It’s never easy to comment impartially from the outside, but I got the feeling he was being badly let down by his players. Perhaps replacing Alex Ferguson was an almost impossible job, particularly as his inheritance wasn’t a great one. Man Utd may have won the title last season, but it was with an unusually (for you) middling bunch of players. No-one’s really queried why Ferguson let his side get so average, or understood that Moyes wasn’t working with a bunch of players who were ever likely to challenge the big-spenders.
7) Do you think there needs to be a major overhaul at United OR just a strong leader who can get the best out of the players?
It’s a tough one. A huge overhaul of the side is needed, for which there won’t be much change from £100m. Man Utd will always be able to attract big names so there’s no issue there, but I do think it could take a few years for a new manager to come in and properly establish himself. That probably won’t be much fun, especially if Liverpool aren’t having just one freakishly good season, but things are always cyclical in football and it could just be a (relatively) fallow period ahead.
8) Where do you need to strengthen next season and have you been linked to any players?
Clubs like us can always strengthen somewhere, it’s a case of being able to attract players. We’re a lower-midtable Premier League side, we don’t have a glamorous city to offer and we’re not swimming in cash. The ace card of European football may help, and if we can somehow nick the Cup, these things all help to make us a brighter prospect. A new left-back is essential, and a third striker to support Long and Jelavić, please.
9) Who is the best Hull City player you have seen in your lifetime?
Having seen City in all four divisions, the ones we have now are obviously better than those of yesteryear, though I’ll always remember Justin Whittle fondly – likewise Dean Windass, Nick Barmby, Stuart Elliott and a host of others that won’t have registered much on the national radar. Tom Huddlestone can do things with a ball few others have ever managed in black and amber – probably him. Though Jay Jay Okocha was good fun to watch
for a while…
10) How will you line up at Old Trafford and what will the score be?
I hear we’re putting out the ressies tomorrow, with an eye on the Cup Final. Part of me thinks that’s quite amusing, as I never even thought we’d get to play Man Utd in a League game, let alone regard it with casual indifference, almost a burden rather than a privilege (sorry – but indulge us here, I’ve seen us lose 3-0 at home to Macclesfield after all so we’re making the most of this while we can). The rest of me thinks that if I’m paying £46 to watch a game, I at least want to see us take it seriously.
Unfortunately the Cup Final is just too prominent in all of our thinking now and nothing Steve Bruce or anyone can do will change that. You have a point to prove from Saturday, and it’s all aligning unhappily against us. I think we’ll lose quite heavily. 5-0.