Hull City 0 Manchester Utd 0: There are no excuses, says Steve Bruce

Manager Steve Bruce is anguished as his side play out a goalless draw with Manchester United on a day when Hull City were demoted back to the Championship (Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire).
Manager Steve Bruce is anguished as his side play out a goalless draw with Manchester United on a day when Hull City were demoted back to the Championship (Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire).
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SO, May 24 is not St Tigers’ day after all.

Exactly seven years on from ‘that’ goal by Dean Windass at Wembley and six since Phil Brown took to the microphone to celebrate Premier League survival, Hull City’s luck on what had previously been a date to savour ran out at the third attempt.

Needing both to beat Manchester United and West Ham United to claim some form of reward from their trip to Newcastle United, the Tigers’ hoped-for double failed to materialise.

An inability to capitalise on several gilt-edged chances – Hull’s Achilles heel throughout a season where they failed to score in 17 of 38 league games – meant a first win over the Red Devils since 1974 proved elusive.

Not that it mattered come the final whistle, Newcastle having already claimed the necessary three points to condemn Hull and manager Steve Bruce to the drop.

“I feel like I have had a kicking at the moment,” said the Tigers’ chief in the wake of his second relegation as a manager.

“When you go into football, you enjoy the high times. But, in the low times, you take a kicking. And, it is fair to say at this minute, I feel like I have taken a kicking.

“You can’t look for excuses when you have just been relegated. We have had 10 months to get out of trouble.

“Against the top teams, we showed what we could do. We got points off Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool. We beat Liverpool as well.

“But we haven’t been able to beat those (teams) in and around us. We needed to do that. We just weren’t good enough in those games.”

The 2,500 visiting fans had arrived in Yorkshire clearly determined to air their new favourite chant, a re-working of the Sixties classic Spirit in the Sky that culminates in the line, ‘When I die and they lay me to rest, I’ll be going on the p*** with Georgie Best’.

Considering how high the stakes were ahead of kick-off for Hull, the hope among the locals had to be that the party mood surrounding a club destined for next season’s Champions League had spread to the players in a week that saw manager Louis van Gaal give an animated performance at the annual Player of the Year dinner in Manchester.

For much of a contest that Hull dominated, United certainly were way off the pace.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, however, this lethargy did not extend to either goalkeeper Victor Valdes on his full debut or the linesman who rightly flagged for offside on the two occasions that the home side got the ball in the net.

The first of those disallowed efforts came in the 17th minute, as a failure by Valdes to collect a right-wing across allowed David Meyler to prod the ball goalwards.

Paul McShane, standing between the by now panicking Valdes and the goal-line, then fired into the net only for his celebrations to be cut short by a flag.

The second ‘goal’ to be chalked off was a much tighter affair. Again, though, the call was correct as Dame N’Doye, when touching Stephen Quinn’s drilled shot into the net from four yards, was standing offside at the time.

Both near misses for Hull came inside three minutes.

Adding to the sense of frustration was that they sandwiched a quite remarkable save by Valdes, the former Barcelona goalkeeper somehow clawing to safety a firm header from Ahmed Elmohamady. It was a wonderful effort and one David de Gea, injured in last week’s draw against Arsenal and believed to be on his way to Real Madrid, could not have bettered.

Ditto the second-half save by Valdes that left Nikica Jelavic scratching his head in bemusement as to how his first-time effort from Sone Aluko’s cross in the 73rd minute had not found the net.

By then, Moussa Sissoko had put Newcastle 1-0 ahead at 
St James’ Park and firmly on course to stay up regardless of the result at the KC.

It did not, though, ease the frustration felt at Valdes pulling off that second save of note as a Hull goal then could have had the nerves jangling on Tyneside.

As it was, Jonas Gutierrez placed the final nail in Hull’s relegation coffin 12 minutes later with Newcastle’s second.

Now, there really was no way back for Bruce’s men, who were destined to pay the ultimate price for a profligate streak that had dogged their play all season long.

Thirty three goals in 38 games tells its own story, as do those 17 games in which Hull fired a blank.

In a way, the final-day draw summed up just why the KC will be hosting MK Dons and not Manchester United next season.

Meyler fired high and wide early in the second half when it seemed easier to score and Abel Hernandez, a £10m signing back in the summer, managing to get the ball stuck under his feet when Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross fell to the Uruguayan eight yards out.

The second of those misses came with United down to 10 men, Marouane Fellaini having quite rightly been dismissed for an awful lunge at the thigh of McShane that just about summed up how out of sorts the visitors had been all afternoon.

Not that Hull could take advantage, to leave Bruce with a big rebuilding job in the coming summer as he looks to repeat his previous trick of leading Birmingham City back up to the top flight at the first attempt.

GOOD DAY: Victor Valdes. All the talk at Old Trafford is whether David De Gea is bound for Real Madrid but Valdes, making his full debut, underlined what an excellent goalkeeper he is with stunning saves to deny Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic.

BAD DAY: Abel Hernandez. A wretched first season in England was encapsulated by the mess he made of what should have been a simple chance in the second half. City spent £10m on the Uruguayan last summer but will be surely lucky to recoup even half that amount.

KEY MOMENT: 4.12pm. The moment when news came through that Newcastle were ahead at St James’ Park. An air of deflation was palpable for the next few minutes as reality hit home that City’s Premier League adventure was coming to an end.

REF JUSTICE: Lee Probert. Rightly red carded Marouane Fellaini for an awful stamp on Paul McShane but the official’s decision to not even yellow card a frustrated Wayne Rooney for a lunge at Robbie Brady in the first half was a mystery.

VERDICT: City’s season in a nutshell as plenty of promising play was letdown by an inability to capitalise when on top. Relegation has been a self-inflicted wound this term.

WHO’S NEXT: The fixtures will be out on June 17 as City prepare for life back in the Championship.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I have never had that experience. The fans of the relegated club supporting right to the end. It was very special,” Louis van Gaal was impressed by the locals on his first trip to the KC.