Bolton 1 Hull 1: Tigers buoyed by United's glory as Fagan secures a point
18 May 2009 03:03
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Perhaps the most telling insight into Hull's chances of escaping relegation came not at the Reebok Stadium but 20 miles down the road at Old Trafford.
'We'll enjoy today and tonight, and then we'll start getting ready for Barcelona,' said Ryan Giggs as he tried on an 11th championship winner's medal for size.
No mention of Hull, then.
It seems unfair to read too much into Giggs's remarks, just as it would be to criticiseManchester United for looking forward to a Champions League final in Rome a whole lot more than a trip down the M62 on the final day of the Premier League season.
But the fact remains that United will have a big say in what happens at the other end of the table when the team selected by Sir Alex Ferguson run out at the KC Stadium next Sunday afternoon, three days before they face Barcelona.
Newcastle, Middlesbrough and, possibly, Sunderland will be praying the champions do not let them down.
Hull boss Phil Brown got carried away as he acknowledged the significance of United wrapping up the title.
'It's an advantage,' he said, before correcting himself. 'Can I rephrase that? It's a massive plus that the title is over and done with now, but is the pressure ever off Manchester United? I don't think it is.
'Alex's mind will be on the game three days later. But I'm expecting a tough game because people are playing for their places in the Champions League final.'
Unlikely. United's performance against Hull will have no bearing on Ferguson's thinking for Rome, but it will have an impact on an intriguing survival battle.
Brown's side have moved out of the relegation zone and have their destiny in their own hands.
Hull's Dutch midfielder George Boateng admitted he is keeping his fingers crossed that United's thoughts will be fixed firmly on Europe.
'I hope so,' said Boateng. 'Three days later United have a massive Champions League final so I hope their kit man will be on their team sheet - although he might be a very good player as well!
'They won't want to risk any players getting injured but whatever team United put out will be a great team and football is a funny game because they have to respect their duty.'
There were no questions over Bolton's professionalism. No favours from Brown's neighbour and friend Jussi Jaaskelainen, who denied Daniel Cousin with an astonishing late save.
Danny Shittu and Manucho both had their heads bandaged following an early clash and Hull assistant Brian Horton had to be calmed down by police officers following Kevin Davies' robust challenge on Andy Dawson.
'I spoke to a few of their players who said Dawson has reacted that way before and to just ignore him,' said Davies. 'For me it was a good tackle. The way their bench over-reacted was disappointing.
I'd heard they'd been on to the referee at half-time saying I was leading with the elbow. It just shows they're desperate.'
Gretar Steinsson fired Bolton ahead but Craig Fagan seized on Shittu's slip for a crucial equaliser early in the second half.
They would have been all but safe had Nick Barmby's mis-hit shot not bounced back off a post, but a point was good enough and Boateng believes the pressure is all on Newcastle now.
'I'd like to think so,' said the former Middlesbrough midfielder. 'During the week people were quite disappointed because Newcastle beat Middlesbrough, but I said to the lads,
'Look, they've peaked too soon. That was their highest performance'.
'Now they have the tougher game. They couldn't beat Fulham at home, and going to Villa Park is harder than that. I would expect Villa to do their duty.'