LONDON: After the seventh home defeat of a wretched Premier League campaign against Sunderland on Saturday, Manchester United will be desperate to make amends when they host Hull City today.
United last lost seven times at home in the 1973-74 season, when they were relegated to the old Division Two, and their 1-0 loss to Sunderland also appears to have ended their chances of sneaking into the Europa League.
Sixth-place Tottenham Hotspur currently occupy the final Europa League berth and need only a point from their final home game against Aston Villa to secure their place in next season’s competition.
With a seventh-place finish therefore beckoning, United will be playing for pride alone when they welcome FA Cup finalists Hull to Old Trafford for their last home game of the campaign.
While the club begin to look to the future, amid reports that Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s appointment as manager is imminent, today’s game will also provide an opportunity to look to the past.
After eight years of service, captain Nemanja Vidic will play his final home game for the club before leaving to join Inter Milan.
Fellow defenders Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, both of whom are out of contract at the end of the season, may also be playing at Old Trafford for the final time.
Interim manager Ryan Giggs, meanwhile, may be tempted to name himself in the playing squad for one last hurrah, as his own playing contract is also due to expire at the end of the campaign.
With a trip to Southampton to follow on the season’s final day, winger Ashley Young has urged last season’s runaway champions to honour the club’s attacking traditions in their two last games.
“We’ve got two more games left and six points to play for,” he told the club’s in-house television channel, MUTV.
“It will be a quick turnaround with the game in mid-week against Hull, and then we’ve got Southampton away so we want to put things right and get back to winning ways.
“We need to go out and win. That’s the Manchester United way. We need to attack teams and be on the front foot, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Striker Robin van Persie is in contention to start for United after making his comeback from a six-week absence with a knee injury as a 66th-minute substitute against Sunderland.
The Dutchman could be joined on the pitch by strike partner Wayne Rooney, who Giggs has revealed is in contention to feature despite sitting out the Sunderland defeat due to a groin strain and a bout of illness.
Hull went down 3-1 at Villa on Saturday, but Norwich City’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea the following day means that they are now safe from relegation.
With the club’s first ever FA Cup final appearance, against Arsenal, less than two weeks away, manager Steve Bruce has admitted that his players are struggling to focus on the task in hand.
“I’ve said for the last couple of weeks we have to keep focused,” said the former United captain.
“The whole city is talking about the FA Cup final and why shouldn’t it be? But it’s been very, very difficult to keep a lid on it when we’ve still got a little bit of work to do.” AFP