It is not often that a fixture against Hull City at home is seen as bigger than Manchester United at Old Trafford – but that is exactly the view being taken by West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray before this Saturday’s game.
The Baggies manager admitted to being “surprised” at how well Phil Brown’s side had adapted to life in the Premier League and, because of their lofty league position, insists his team will take them just as seriously as they did Manchester United.
“I don’t see any game in the Premier League as bread and butter,” Mowbray said. “Every game is a major event - and the next one is.
“We are playing against a team that is third in the league and has won three away games already – but it is a game that we have to target for a win.
“I am not a betting man so I have no idea whether people perceive us as the underdogs. But Hull will undoubtedly come here in confident mood.
“Everyone has been surprised by how well they have done and by how all three promoted teams to the league have fared so far. It will make for an interesting season outside the top four.”
Despite a humbling loss at Old Trafford, Albion will go into the game at The Hawthorns in similarly ebullient mood, knowing that they can at least compete with all but four teams in the division.
“Every game outside the top four is significant because they are real opportunities for us,” Mowbray said.
“As we found against Villa, they had the quality footballers that could hurt us but, generally, throughout the course of the football match I don’t think we ever felt that they were just too good for us.
“It’s the quality footballers that make the difference. That will apply when we go to Newcastle [on Tuesday].
“They have been struggling – but we can go there and we may well play against Michael Owen and Obafemi Martens and Damien Duff.
“All of a sudden they have their quality back on the pitch.”
Mowbray knows they have nowhere near the quality of Manchester United, however, which is why Albion should enter the games with confidence.
Sir Alex Ferguson gave the Baggies due recognition before their match at Old Trafford by suggesting they played the best football in the Premier League.
While Mowbray was mindful not to go to that extreme, such effusive praise should not be overlooked.
He added: “Is there such a thing as a good 4-0 defeat? I am a realist, the quality of Manchester United was there for all to see but for an hour we looked comfortable in the environment and stood up to it very well. It was a great experience.
“We earned the right to go there and play them and only in the last 20 minutes did the experience get soured when we showed a little bit of naivety with the way we defended.
“Sir Alex is a good man and it is easy to be gracious in victory. Teams like United get used to teams going to Old Trafford and packing their defensive areas.
“That is what happened to us in the Championship last year. Teams come in a very defensive 4-5-1 formation and it’s very hard to break down.
“It is almost refreshing for him that we went there and kept the ball off them for 20 passes at a time and didn’t sink all out players to the edge of the box. Maybe that is what he meant.”