MANCHESTER UNITED have form for relegating one of their own.
Just ask Brian Kidd, who just six months after leaving Old Trafford saw his then Blackburn Rovers side’s demise confirmed by a draw at home to the Red Devils in 1999.
Steve Bruce was no longer at the club by then but nine years as a player at United means he knows his former employer is not in the business of displaying sentiment.
Sunday, of course, sees the 54-year-old’s Hull City take on United in a game the Yorkshire side must win to have any chance of avoiding the drop. And he knows it will not be easy against Louis van Gaal’s men.
“It doesn’t matter who plays,” said the Tigers chief. “They are Manchester United. If you are representing Manchester United at any level, you are a good player.”
Hull, of course, have been here before. Six years ago, in fact. Once again, Newcastle United and Sunderland were locked in a three-way scrap for survival with the Tigers.
The big difference this time, though, is that Hull will start the final day in the bottom three and not the Magpies. Hence why Bruce’s men must win and hope the Magpies fail to do the same at home to West Ham United.
“We are up against one of the top teams,” said the Hull chief. “But we are at home and we all know the importance of it.
“We can’t spend time worrying about the opposition because we have shown we are capable against the best teams.
“Had we taken our chances at Spurs (in last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat) or got the bounce of the ball here or there, we could have won that game.
“It wasn’t to be but we have got to believe that we can go and get a result against Manchester United.
“That is all we can do.”
Tonight will determine whether the final-day drama near the foot of the Premier League will be a two- or three-team affair.
Sunderland, three points clear of Hull but with a slightly inferior goal difference, head to Arsenal this evening knowing that a draw from their game in hand will be enough to guarantee safety. If, however, the Gunners prevail then Dick Advocaat’s men will return to the capital to face champions Chelsea on the final day knowing that defeat, together with a Hull win, will leave them teetering over the trap door and relying on West Ham for a favour.
A home win at the Emirates, therefore, would be a major lift for Hull and a manager who sees hope in his side’s record in the current campaign against the big boys of the Premier League.
“We have been to three top clubs – Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – this season and got a result,” he added.
“We then beat Liverpool at home as well. I know we are capable.
“We know the magnitude of this game and let’s make sure we take the chance.
“We never really wanted to be in this position but we are and we have to make the most of it. Can there be one last twist?”
The identity of who will join Burnley and Queens Park Rangers in next season’s Championship is, along with the race for European places, the only major issue to be resolved this term.
At the moment, van Gaal’s United still harbour hopes of securing automatic entry into the Champions League by finishing third. An Arsenal win tonight, however, could end even those faint chances.
Bruce’s only priority, meanwhile, is survival. He added: “Over 38 games, the three bottom teams deserve to be where they are.
“You look at those times where you dropped points – like in stoppage time at Manchester City or when we were 1-0 up at home to Sunderland – and you wonder ‘if only’.
“We can’t complain at being where we are but there is still one more chance to get out of trouble.”