I have to start off with the obligatory dig at the people making the decisions at Hull City. Hull regular entertain up to 7,000 empty seats for Premier League games and despite fantastically cheap tickets for the fixture only 9,000 tickets have been sold to do date including United’s travellers. The decision to award United with the minimum 10% allocation is small minded and nasty. A trick designed to limit our influence off the pitch and decision which significantly increases the risk of anti-social behaviour in the stands as away fans exercise their right to watch their team play by snapping up some of the 16,000 unsold home tickets. This is not only fair on us but fans in the home section whose enjoyment of the game will be reduced by the presence of away fans in the home section. No one wins, from a fan perspective. United have given Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday allocations of 6,000 in recent years when we have drawn home support of around 30,000 in earlier rounds of the same competition.
I think we’ll win this tie. It won’t be easy and Hull will get the respect they deserve from Rafa and the coaching staff however I’ve seen a lot of people suggesting on social media that Hull start as favourites and United should be grateful for any chance of progression at all. I’m afraid that’d rubbish as United rightly start as bookies favourites. That’s testament to the job the players and staff have done so far this season that we face Premier League opponents away from home and are considered the most likely team to win the game after ninety minutes. After Saturday’s defeat NUFC are still one of the form team in Europe over the last ten games. It won’t be easy, but if you don’t think you can win these games there’s be no point in going. Blackburn were 9/1 to win at St James’ and did. That United start close to evens with many bookies tells you that they think we’ll do this. So do I and so will the players.
Hull City finished 6th in the Championship this season and went up via the play offs (thanks to a Diame screamer). Of that team that scraped promotion only Ryan Mason for £10m, goalkeeper David Marhsall for £4m and Markus Henriksen for £5m were added to the first team. In the mean time they lost Diame to us and have lost 25 goal top scorer Abel Hernandez to injury. If Phelan picked his strongest team for this game, it would be made up of the vast majority of the starting eleven which finished 6th in the second tier last season. For that reason, Hull find themselves in the relegation zone with 11 points from 13 games. 6 of those points were picked up in their first two games (wins over struggling Leicester and Swansea) so they’ve picked up 5 points from 11 games since. Their home form is OK with the only bad defeat of note coming in the form of a 0 2 reverse to Stoke. All of their other home defeats have been against top 6 sides.
Hull are nowhere near as bad as the shambles they are away from home so a tough night lies ahead for United. Hull undeservedly drew with West Brom at home on Saturday and have two huge games coming up against direct relegation rivals Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. I think this goes against United as Phelan will be desperate for his squad to go into these games with confidence and not on the back of a draw and a defeat at home in the space of 4 days. Hull’s run to this stage includes wins at Exeter, Stoke and Bristol City – which is a far harder run that we have faced. I think Phelan will make only minor changes to his side, so expect a strong starting 11 from the Tigers.
United will play what is now our first team, provided Jack Colback is fit. I expect the team to be the same as lined up at Leeds with Diame coming in for Perez. Diame will be facing his former club and despite his slow start at United, his performances can’t be any more ineffectual than Perez’s have been at late. He was very good against Preston in the last round, more of the same needed. I honestly don’t know what I’d have said if you told me 12 months ago that Colback, Goufrann and Dummet were so integral to United (regardless of the division) that they would be rested for a home league game (although Colback was suspended and injured). It’ll be great to have them back. Anita will likely come back and so of course will Dwight Gayle.
There were desperate performances put in on Saturday by Mbemba, Mitrovic and Perez but even established players like Shelvey and Ritchie had poor afternoons. Rafa may not admit it publically but that performance on Saturday was one that reeked of the players treating the fixture as an inconvenience. I think minds were well and truly on Tuesday so the players who do start again need to put things right. I imagine Sels will start as each round Rafa has given game time to the substitute goal keeper. That worries me as Hull are strong from set pieces, however he did nothing wrong when called up on last against Preston. The players who were so dire will most likely have a chance to influence the game from the bench so their mind-set needs to be correct and they need to be ready to contribute in a manner they failed to on Saturday.
United have conceded three away goals in 9 away league games. That’s exceptional. Another clean sheet on Tuesday and we’re two ties away from a final and I back us against anyone on our day. That doesn’t mean I think we’ll win it, but I’d like to be able to have a go. Come on United.
Prediction 2 0 United.
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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