Hull City manager Steve Bruce accepts it is going to be a tall order for his side to engineer a final-day escape from Premier League relegation when they take on Manchester United.
Bruce’s men welcome Louis van Gaal’s side to the KC Stadium on Sunday knowing they will be relegated to the Championship with anything less than a win.
Even if Hull do secure all three points they will stay will suffer the ignominy of the drop should Newcastle United beat West Ham at St James’ Park, although they will be safe with a victory if John Carver’s team fail to achieve the same result.
The situation is strikingly similar to that of six years ago when Hull survived following a 1-0 loss to United as Newcastle slipped to a defeat by the same scoreline versus another team in claret and blue – Aston Villa.
Bruce has a dreadful record against his former club, having lost 17 and drawn four of the 21 games in which he has faced them as a manager.
“It’s always difficult [against United] but we know we’re capable if we play to the best of our ability, as we’ve seen when we beat Liverpool a couple of weeks ago,” Bruce said.
“It’s been a long, difficult season for us. I hope, a bit like when we got a result against Cardiff to get in the Premier League – it reminds me a lot of that – hopefully our moment is about to come. It’s going to be a tall order but we know we’ve got a chance.”
Asked about the prospect of relegating Newcastle, who he supported growing up, Bruce added: “All I’m interested in is the club that employ me at the minute.
“We didn’t expect to be in this position but we are. Let’s hope we’ve got one final twist can go our way.”
Hull have no new injury concerns to worry about, with midfielder Jake Livermore still suspended after failing a drugs test.
It remains to be seen whether David de Gea will feature for United after the goalkeeper picked up a hip injury against Arsenal. Jonny Evans is a doubt with a knock, but Wayne Rooney is fit to return from a leg injury.
Fourth-placed United need a substantial and improbable swing in goal difference to steal third place from Arsenal. But, although that appears extremely unlikely, defender Chris Smalling is keen to end the season on the right note.
“We don’t have a great deal to play for but, as the manager has said before, we always play for that pride,” Smalling told MUTV.
“Hull obviously have to win the game and that will make for an entertaining match, where they won’t be able to defend like a lot of teams do – they’ll have to come out at us.
“I think that will make it a much more open game and a more enjoyable one for us.”