LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United will bid farewell to their fans when they play Hull City in their final Premier League home match of the season at Old Trafford on Tuesday in circumstances virtually unimaginable when Alex Ferguson retired a year ago.
On May 12 last year, Ferguson took charge of his final home match after 26 years at the helm with a 13th title under his stewardship already assured.
Amid scenes of celebration, a 2-1 win over Swansea City provided a fitting finale to his tenure with the Scot imploring fans to “get behind our new manager” David Moyes.
One year on, the title has gone, Moyes has gone and United are scrabbling for points against a Hull City side managed by former Red Devils skipper Steve Bruce, who has taken Hull to the FA Cup final for the first time in club history.
United, now under interim manager Ryan Giggs, can no longer finish higher than sixth and even victories in their last two matches may not be enough to achieve that should Tottenham Hotspur pick up a point against Aston Villa on Sunday.
A seventh-place finish will mean United, who end their campaign at Southampton on Sunday, will miss out on European soccer next season for the first time since 1990.
Veteran French fullback Patrice Evra, who is 33 next week and out of contract this summer, described United’s season as a “nightmare” after Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland and said the side deserved all the criticism being aimed at them.
“We have been really poor,” the former France international told reporters.
”We deserve all the criticism. We have not played well enough. We have lost some stupid games.
“When we are on the pitch, we try to win every game but it’s been so painful this season, it’s been a nightmare. When I look at the table, I just feel a big frustration. This year is a season I want to forget really quickly.”
Saturday’s defeat was their seventh at home in the league as Sunderland became the latest side to end a long wait for victory at Old Trafford.
Their last win there came in 1968 and they followed Everton, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion, who also won there for the first time in decades, as well as Swansea City, who won there for the first time ever in the FA Cup in January.
If Hull win on Tuesday, they can add their name to that list.
In 10 league meetings at Old Trafford, they have lost nine times and drawn once, a Second Division encounter in 1923-24, and their only win at Old Trafford was in an FA Cup third round tie in 1952.
Hull have enjoyed a comfortable first season back in the top flight and secured an FA Cup final date against Arsenal on May 17, while United have lurched from one crisis to another since Ferguson’s retirement up to Moyes’s sacking on April 22.
Evra continued: ”I think there has been a lack of confidence. Sir Alex Ferguson was the heart of Manchester United. He is a legend and he cannot be replaced so quickly.
“We knew it would be difficult but not this difficult. We can do much better than we have done - maybe not win the league but at least qualify for the Champions League with the players we have.”
It has been widely reported in the British media that Dutchman Louis van Gaal will be appointed United’s new manager, but whether Evra is still at the club playing under whoever is in charge next season remains unclear.
He continued: ”I’ll decide in two weeks about what I am going to do. There have been a lot of rumors, but I have not decided anything yet. My agent will have a meeting with Manchester and we will see.
“I will tell you if I am staying or leaving this club at the end of the season.”
Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by John O'Brien