There are positive signs for Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United. Derided for much of the opening months, United have lost just one of their last seven games to climb into the top four of the table. Last weekend’s 2-1 win over Arsenal may have been thanks to more than a touch of good fortune, but the spirit shown by Van Gaal’s injury-ravaged defence suggests the experienced manager’s squad ethos he has been famous for throughout his long and distinguished career is taking hold at Old Trafford.
Three more points look likely to be there for the taking today. Visitors Hull City have lost three consecutive matches and won just one of their last 11 games to sink to 17th in the league table. The last two results have been gut-wrenching for the Tigers, a 1-0 defeat against lowly Burnley before conceding a last-minute goal to lose 2-1 against Tottenham after leading for much of that game.
Jake Livermore scored the opening goal in the defeat to Spurs, ending Hull’s run of three games without a goal, and Manchester United’s porous defence should offer chances to a Hull attack that includes the quality of Abel Hernandez and Nikica Jelavic. However, the City players are rightly more concerned with stopping United’s vast array of attacking talent.
“Louis van Gaal has brought in some quality players like Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao,” Hull centre-back Alex Bruce said. “There are threats all over the pitch and I think Marouane Fellaini has done well in the past few weeks.
“Wayne (Rooney) is always a threat isn’t he? He’s a great player … and he’s always capable of scoring a great goal at any given moment, like he did at the KC Stadium last season when he produced a little bit of magic with a 25-yard volley from nowhere that got them back into the game. It’s one thing we have to keep on top of.”
A knee ligament injury for Daley Blind has been a major factor in Manchester United’s return to a 5-3-2 formation since the recent international break. The much-improved Fellaini and fit-again Michael Carrick offer a screen to an inexperienced back three, while the wing-backs are encouraged to get forward as much as possible to take some of the creative pressure off Di Maria and Rooney.
An ankle knock picked up by Luke Shaw is a setback to that system, but Ashley Young deputised well against Arsenal and may retain his place. Centre-back Jonny Evans is close to a comeback from injury, which would be a huge boost given the continued absence of Phil Jones (calf) and Marcos Rojo (shoulder).
“I’ve been training for a week or two now but it’s taking me time to get my fitness up as I’ve been out for so long,” Evans said. “Players don’t get injured on purpose. There have been injuries with the odd hamstring or groin, there have been quite a few of those, but Rojo dislocated his shoulder and I had a fracture in my foot. There were a couple of other injuries – Phil Jones has got one that came out of the blue.
“We don’t want any more injuries, but what can we do about it? They’re freak injuries and it’s difficult from that point of view. It’d be nice to get settled in the team – everyone in the squad wants to get settled in their position as well.”
United won both games against Hull last season, winning 3-2 at the KC Stadium and running out more comfortable 3-1 winners at Old Trafford.
The Tigers have lost all six of their Premier League meetings with Manchester United, getting outscored 18-7.
Source: ScoreMobile FC