For Hull City, the situation could not be any clearer – they have to beat Manchester United on the final weekend of the Premier League season or their two-year stay back in the top tier will be brought to an abrupt, and hugely disappointing, end.
In many ways the lack of options available to the Tigers is a good thing, with there no need for tactics to be over-thought or attention to start drifting elsewhere.
— Hull City (@HullCity) May 20, 2015
Of course, it is possible that even three points on Sunday will not be enough to protect their status among English football’s elite but, given how dire Newcastle United have been of late, you get the feeling that success against a side already assured of a top-four finish and a Champions League return for next term will be suitably rewarded.
The problem for Steve Bruce’s side though, apart from the obvious, is that they will need to write their own piece of history in order to drag themselves dramatically clear of the trapdoor that leads to the Championship.
Hull are approaching the end of their fourth season as a Premier League side, split over two spells, and not once in that time have they managed to take anything off the Red Devils.
Their sorry record against United since stepping back up into the top-flight in 2008/09 reads: Played 7, won 0, drew 0, lost 7, goals for 7, goals against 21.
You do not need to be the world’s greatest mathematician to work out that the struggles outlined above have delivered zero points and have seen the men from Manchester net at an average of three goals per game, while conceding just once.
Hull, it would appear, have it all to do.
If their standing were slightly improved and a draw would be enough to see them safe, then you could make an argument for their desire not to be beaten shining through against an opponent with little left to play for.
As it is, you can’t see where the inspiration is going to come from or how a side with just eight clean sheets to its name all season is going to contain a visiting outfit blessed with pace and creativity on the counter and secure a much-needed shut-out.
Steve Bruce may be a United legend from his playing days, but he will be expecting no favours this weekend, and Louis van Gaal is hardly the kind of manager to come bearing gifts for a rival boss.
He may get some assistance from old friend Sam Allardyce, with the West Ham United manager unlikely to roll over at former employers Newcastle in what could very well be his last game in the Hammers hot-seat.
— Hull City (@HullCity) May 18, 2015
Hull, though, are holding out for a hero. The bookies have been known to get things wrong before, though, and for anyone brave enough to take a punt on final day fireworks going off the KC Stadium, you can get 10/3 on Bruce overseeing a great escape that will live long in the memory of the East Yorkshire natives.