Former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce will be looking to get one over his old club
Manchester United travel to Hull City this afternoon for the 25th clash between the two sides. United last played at the KC stadium the day after boxing day in 2009, winning 3-1. The last time Hull City beat United was way back in the 1974/75 season, when both clubs were in Division 2. Steve Bruce has done a great job so far, guiding his side to 12th spot.
David Moyes’ men will be looking to push on following disappointing home defeats to Everton and Newcastle at the start of the month, but have since beat Aston Villa away and West Ham at home. Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie are still out through injury, whilst Danny Welbeck is expected to travel after suffering an injury in the fixture 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 Hull City Tigers, Steve Bruce and who competed in the first ever domestic penalty shoot out! You can follow the guys on Twitter @Amber__Nectar –
1) How would you sum up your season so far and is Steve Bruce the right man to take you forward?
Steve Bruce is a hugely popular figure at City. He’s rediscovered his love for football management here; gone is the haggard, haunted figure who reeled off excuse after excuse as his time at Sunderland drew to an unhappy close, in its place is a cheery and inspiring figure. We know we don’t have the division’s strongest squad, but he’s the perfect man to squeeze every drop of ability out of it.
2) You’re only right points off the reigning champions, do you think you’ll be involved in a relegation dog fight this time round?
It could go one of two ways: we could stay serenely clear of the relegation fight at the bottom of the table, or we could lose a few, maybe go six weeks without a win and suddenly find ourselves drawn into it.
There’s often one club who drop from a strong position to go down, and we’re not foolish enough to think it definitely won’t be us. However, with 20 points already amassed it’s equally possible that we’ll continue to bobble
between 11th-14th all season, which would be rather nice.
3) Many fans are disgusted at the potential name change to Hull City Tigers. What’s your take on it all?
Disgusted is a very good way of describing it. We have a traditional English club name (Hull City) and a really good nickname (the Tigers). So why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to clumsily weld them together?
Attracting zillions of new fans in the far East is pretty much impossible as the bigger boys are there already and it’s success not silly names that’ll attract your floating fan in China, but the if the club really MUST target this market, then by all means promote our nickname. But leave our name alone; it’s served us just fine 109 years.
4) Who has been your best and worst performer so far this season?
The best is probably Curtis Davies, a player I’d always had down as a mistake waiting to happen, but he’s been quite superb. Rather crazily, City have the third best home defence in the top five leagues in Europe, and that’s in no small part down to him. The worst is probably Danny Graham – there’s no shortage of effort so he’s still got the fans on his side, but he was brought in on loan to score goals, and, well, hasn’t.
5) What have you made of United this season and David Moyes?
About what I expected. Replacing Alex Ferguson was always going to be a fearfully difficult task, and compared to recent years I don’t think the Manchester United side Moyes inherited was as strong as it could have been. Moyes is a class manager and I’m pleased he got a chance; now he needs to be given some time, even that means a season out of the Champions League (which I still think is unlikely). The attrition rate of managers in football is absolutely insane and it needs to stop.
6) Do you think you’ll be signing anyone in January transfer window? If so,who and in what areas do you need to strengthen in?
We need to strengthen in all areas! We’re newly promoted after all, so there are always improvements that could be made. With our star player Sone Aluko out until February, the temptation is to yearn for a new forward, however the best bit of business we could do is to see whether Tottenham fancy parting permanently with Jake Livermore, who’s been absolutely brilliant in our midfield.
7) If you could take one United player to Hull, who would it be and why?
We’ve done very well out of loans from Manchester United in recent names, notably James Chester and Robbie Brady, who are both genuine Premier League quality players. I was a bit surprised Brady was let go permanently actually, but we’re not complaining. Do you think Darren Fletcher could do with a spell on loan to get his fitness back? No? Okay then…
8) Have you any promising youngsters coming through we should keep an eye out for?
Our most promising youngster is probably Robbie Brady. When he first came on loan he was very much the archetypal greedy selfish brash young winger. When he came back, something had inexplicably changed and he’s now a thrilling talent. He’s currently struggling with injury, and we miss his pace and skill a great deal, but if he keeps his head on he’s going to have a great career for both club and country.
9) What did you make of that infamous Phil Brown team talk? Stupid or blown out of proportion?
Blown out of all proportion. The national media doesn’t really like doing proper research on clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League, so when that intemperate action occurred at the start of our fall down the table, the media erroneously mistook coincidence for correlation. It wasn’t a great idea, but neither did it make much difference to anything. I was at the bar anyway, we were 4-0 down…
10) Give us a little known fact about the club.
Most people have already heard the one about us being the only team name you can’t colour in, so how about this factoid, with added topical content: Hull City and Manchester United shared the country’s first ever penalty shootout, in 1970.
You can, if bored, read more about it here: http://www.ambernectar.org/blog/1998/07/watne/ That was in the Watney Cup, and in a glorious instance of TypicalCity, we lost it, and would have to wait until a League Cup game against Hartlepool in 2006 to finally win one, at something like the eighth attempt. So if you’re ever tempted to think your team has bad luck at penalties….
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.