Manchester United face Hull City at Old Trafford in the EFL Cup on Tuesday evening at Old Trafford, just three days after beating Reading 4-0 in the Emirates FA Cup. United have now been unbeaten in their last 14 matches, winning their last eight, six of those in the Premier League alone. United have developed into a resurgent side trying to get back to the days gone by where the fear factor was present in each and every opponent. That seems to be something Jose Mourinho have instilled into his squad, grinding out the results on a match by match basis, aiming to claw back the deficit from the teams above them in the league.
United may not have change positions in the past six matches in the league, but when Arsenal once had an 11 point lead, to now just two points, shows just what United have done. The EFL Cup is a different competition, one which could see silverware at the Theatre of Dreams this season, providing United make it through the two-legged semi-final and win at Wembley, a match which could be against either Southampton or Liverpool, with the latter doing a pretty good Southampton impression in amassing most of their players and still wanting more. Hull City have been a good side in the competition this season, despite their poor form in the Premier League, but a resurgent United could be too much for them.
Starting XI Prediction (4-2-3-1):
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
Rested against Reading in the Emirates FA Cup this weekend, David De Gea will probably return against Hull City. Two game out of action is relatively unheard of for De Gea, unless he is injured so keeping him out ot the starting XI in the run up to the Liverpool match at Old Trafford next Sunday may not be the best decision. I am sure he will be thankful of the rest this weekend, and that will go a long way into getting him prepared for a busy week, and rest of the month. De Gea is the best goalkeeper at the club, even though Sergio Romero is not a bad backup for him. Having De Gea behind United’s back four, which looks set to be without Marcos Rojo, a player who has combined well with Phil Jones recently, will add more strength.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw
The defence has been something many have worried about this season, at various points. United will be without Eric Bailly for the remainder of the month and probably into February, which leaves Jose Mourinho with little options should things go wrong. The injury sustained to Marcos Rojo on Saturday against Reading only adds to that, not that we know how long he will be out of action for. It could be nothing to worry about. Needless to say, the defence is the most important part of the team, especially in that United are starting to look better on the attack, which is all a product of a strong defence. Antonio Valencia will come back into the side on Tuesday alongside the partnership of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Luke Shaw was supposed to play against Reading, but illness stood in his way, which should see him recover to make his first appearance since the 4-1 victory over West Ham United in the EFL Cup at the end of November.
Midfield – Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger
Michael Carrick will most likely be rested against Hull City as he will be needed against Liverpool on Sunday. United have strength in-depth in the midfield currently, even with Morgan Schneiderlin’s impending move away from the club. I think Bastian Schweinsteiger will make a start against Hull, paired alongside Ander Herrera, who will be looking to get some action before Liverpool arrive at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday. The pairing will add some insurance in front of the back four, and the tracking nature of Herrera, who has his mind sent on winning the ball back and constantly chasing down his opposition, something which may dog Hull and allow United to unleash their full force, which I do not think has been seen, at least properly, this season.
Attacking Midfield – Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
This is where United are starting to look the part this season, the three behind the striker. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba are both players who have added a lot to United play this season. Anthony Martial is another, dazzling against Reading at the weekend with United dominating the Championship side into submission. The Armenian may play on the left, which could see Jesse Lingard play on the right, with Pogba in the middle. This adds pace on both sides, running at their man and able to supply the striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic with some great passes, also to each other. United have been magical on the attack at times, and doing that in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final could end the tie at Old Trafford, with the visit to Hull only a formality. This trio may not be the best United have to offer, but allowing players to recover in time for the match after this one is key, giving strength across the squad, which is something Mourinho is handling very well this season, even though it did not look that way after the first hurdle earlier in the season when United fell to three successive defeats in the Premier League and the UEFA Europa League.
Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The veteran Swedish striker has scored 18 goals this season, which is a feat that many are amazed about, especially those writing the player off, even before his arrival in Manchester. United have been missing this type of striker since Robin van Persie, in his first season, almost single-handedly delivered the Premier League title, the first in his career. That season saw some magnificent goals, which is the same thing we are seeing now with Zlatan. At 35, he really is a fine specimen in the game, able to continue playing week in and week out, being rested against Reading, as he will be expected to face Hull City and Liverpool in the coming matches, which will be important for United to continue their resurgence this season. United have a massive chance to put the three barren years behind them, raising their game and putting their rivals on the back foot.