With defenders back, Manchester United head to Hull with Chelsea in their sight

Hull v Manchester United, Premier League, December 27, 2009

Hull 8/1; Draw 7/2; Manchester United 4/9

“It’s a crucial time, we lost against Aston Villa and Fulham but the target is to win every game we can from now on. We always do well in this period and now, more than ever, we need victories.” – Patrice Evra.

Once again Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson provided a good smokescreen by calling Mark Hughes sacking at Eastlands “unacceptable.” The truth is that the Premier League champions have much to worry about following some poor results of late with defeats to both Aston Villa and Fulham as they failed to put pressure on leaders Chelsea who have had a wobble.

The good news for Ferguson and United is that the defensive problems appear to be easing. Nemanja Vidic is expected to be fit as could Wes Brown, while Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio are also available which means it is more than likely that Darren Ferguson and Michael Carrick will be restored to midfield. (Manchester United are 11/10 to keep a clean sheet.)

Another player set to return for the champions is Ryan Giggs which gives Sir Alex options to play with ahead of Wigan’s arrival at Old Trafford next Wednesday. With Chelsea facing tricky games against Birmingham and Fulham and with Arsenal breathing down their necks, no less than six points from the Christmas games will be expected at United.

Hull, hovering above the relegation zone, have fared better than many expected after their freefall in the second half of last season, but they have missed Jimmy Bullard after he revitalised their campaign on his return from injury.

Phil Brown’s side have not scored since Bullard secure a point at Manchester City in November (4/5 that both teams will not score) and since then have been comprehensively beaten at both Aston Villa and Arsenal, with a 0-0 draw against Blackburn in between. (6/5 to be under 2.5 goals.)

The Tigers have produced some impressive performances at home this season and with a capacity crowd backing them on they could pose United problems. Nicky Barmby misses out for the home side after picking up a calf injury in the defeat at the Emirates last weekend.

It is majorly difficult to see Hull winning their first game against Manchester United since a 2-0 win in the old second division in November 1974. When they had to win to ensure their Premier League survival on the last day of last season, they lost to a trademark Darron Gibson long range effort and barely troubled a youthful United side as Ferguson rested players for the Champions League final.

Hull’s survival was greeted with Phil Brown’s now infamous serenading of the KC Stadium. There is unlikely to be much happiness on his face after this one. United traditionally kick into gear now and Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen could fill their boots.

101predicts: Hull 0 – Manchester United 1 (13/2)

Hull 8/1; Draw 7/2; Manchester United 4/9

Full match odds here.