Manchester United beat Hull City in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford with two second-half goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. It was maybe not the result Jose Mourinho wanted, but United go into the second leg in just over a fortnight with a good lead, needing a goal, or two to seal their first cup final of the season at Wembley. United extend their winning run to nine consecutive matches, stretching their unbeaten run to 15 matches. Bring on Liverpool.
Jose Mourinho made seven changes from his side which beat Reading 4-0 in the Emirates FA Cup at the Theatre of Dreams. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the tie due to illness. Morgan Schneiderlin was absent amid reports of his impending move away from the club close to being sealed, to Everton, despite interest from West Bromwich Albion. United started the match in resurgent form, almost finding an early goal, failing but still having the lion’s share of the ball. Hull, despite their injury woes, did not sit back and hope for the best, they did try an attack through Harry Maguire, which was unlikely to trouble United.
In the 16th minute of the match, Hull lost Markus Henriksen after he shoulder barged Paul Pogba, lost the challenge and seemed to be carrying a shoulder injury, leaving the pitch with Hull temporarily down to ten men. United had a great chance before the substitution with Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan combining with the Armenian firing towards goal, wide of the target. Abel Hernandez replaced Henriksen. Hull were defending deep in their own half, not by choice. United were pressing them deeper and deeper with chances being created thick and fast, nothing breaking the deadlock at this stage in the match, though.
In the 28th minute of the match, Paul Pogba had an effort on goal from range, hitting the target, but Eldin Jakupovic stopped it, thwarting another chance for the home side to take the lead. United had another chance moments later with Marcus Rashford dipping his striker from 20-yards, which was just over the crossbar. Just past the 30 minute mark, Hull had a credible effort on goal through Adama Diomande, from a header, hitting the post, saving United’s blushes, which may not have counted as he looked to be in an offside position. United had their scare of the tie, time to case a few of their own.
After hitting the post, Hull seemed to develop some confidence, having some rare possession inside United’s area. That was short-lived though with United winning back the ball and creating some pressure of their own. Maguire received the first yellow card of the match after he took out Mkhitaryan with a sliding challenge, not even close to winning the ball. United took the free kick, created more pressure in the Hull area, but nothing that was enough to take the lead, unfortunately. United went into the break still needing something to settle the match, which ideally should be over this evening, with the second leg just a formality.
At the start of the second half, United made no changes, but looked to pick up from their form in the first half, vying for a goal. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a chance in the opening minute of the half, running at goal but Jakupovic raced off his line to collect the ball, thwarting the attack. The best chance came after just five minutes through Wayne Rooney, who drifted wide and was not picked up by Hull, firing his shot from an angle, wide of the mark. That could have been his 250th goal for Manchester United. United took the lead ten minutes into the second half with a simple tap in from Juan Mata, from a Antonio Valencia cross, which was headed towards goal by Mkhitaryan, with Mata prodding the ball into the back of the net.
Wayne Rooney made way for Anthony Martial in the 59th minute of the match, ending the chance of his 250th goal against Hull, but possibly against Liverpool on Sunday, should Rooney play a part in that match, which would be a better club to break a record against. United continued playing well, pressuring Hull in their own area and creating chances, which were not really threatening the visitors. United won a corner in the 69th minute of the match, which was dealt with by Hull. Valencia won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after being fouled, , with amounted to nothing. Jesse Lingard was readying himself to come on, replacing Mkhitaryan.
Minutes after the substitution, United have another free-kick with Paul Pogba taking it, and hitting the post, which was unfortunate. United still on top in the game, the scoreline may not be what was expected, Hull have done well and United had not been taking their chances throughout the game. Marouane Fellaini replaced Mata as United’s third substitute this evening, may not be a fans favourite, but was brought on for a specific job, making himself a nuisance in the Hull box, something he has been good at in the past. Rashford really took his chance against Hull, showing his qualities, especially his pace in the final ten minutes of the match.
Hull stretched United in their own half in the 83rd minute, with United finding a way to avoid an equaliser. A resulting corner amounted to nothing for the visitors and United then regained possession, pressuring Hull in the final third. Paul Pogba, who hit the post with a free-kick earlier in the match, had done so seven times this season in all competitions, which is unfortunate but takes some skill to do. United doubled their lead through Fellaini in the 87th minute of the match after Martial and Darmian combined for the Italian to cross the ball into the box, for Fellaini, on the rise to head into the back of the net. United threatened moments later, failing to get a third goal.
Goals: Juan Mata 56′, Marouane Fellaini 87′
Assists: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 56′, Matteo Darmian 87′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Herrera, Pogba; Mata (Fellaini 79′), Rooney (Martial 59′), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 71′); Rashford
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Blind, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick