Will Manchester United get in to another string of draws or will they break out of the rut before getting too deep in it? The second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, a rather unglamorous tie between United and Hull City, might put together a mouth-watering Final scenario. With a 2-0 victory over Hull, United are sitting in a pretty comfortable situation to go ahead to the last stage of the tournament, unless Hull can pull out an unlikely 3-0 or more victory.
United have, in the past few games, looked a little tired and uninspirational on the field and this needs to change soon if they wish to stay in the top four fight, with the title now almost out of their reach, and progress in other cup competitions. So should they go all out for the second leg of the semi-final or should they be conservative and plan for the FA Cup game at the weekend, with the semi-final almost put to bed, “almost” being the operational word. From what we have seen so far, Mourinho would want to put in a strong team and get in to the finals on the back of strong performances and results. Let’s have a look at what might be the starting XI for the game.
Starting XI Prediction (4-3-3):
Goalkeeper – Sergio Romero
Romero has been United’s second choice keeper but has been exceptional in whatever few appearances he has made. It is not easy to get ahead of De Gea in the pecking order but Mourinho can surely look at Romero for cup games.
Back Four – Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Marcus Rojo, Luke Shaw
With Eric Bailly still away on international duties, Smalling might swap his center back partner for Rojo, who watched the Stoke City game from the stands. Smalling has not been as good at the back as he was last season and has a lot of scope for improvement. But with Phil Jones having played in quite a few games on the bounce it might be a good idea to rest him for a game to bring him back for the league or the FA Cup game. It’s the left back situation that is a bit curious right now. With Darmian being limited in his attacking prowess, Mourinho might bring in Shaw back to the starting XI. Shaw has missed a lot of games due to injury and sickness but has been back in training now. This game might be a great opportunity for him to make his comeback.
Central Midfield – Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera
The midfield trio of these three were put to test against Liverpool and did not perform at the level that they have been for past few weeks, with Pogba having arguably his worst performance of his United career. Even Carrick was ineffective and had to be substituted half way through the game. This game will be a great opportunity for them to get back their confidence and get ready for the final half of the season.
Front Three – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial
There has been quite a bit of talk about Martial not being in the team for the last game but it might all be Mourinho’s man management after all. Martial has not been at his best this season, however, has been bright in patches. His problem has been his inconsistency over the ninety minutes. Mourinho would want to have his talented left winger in full flow when it comes to the later part of this season and this game can serve as a great chance to have the Frenchman gain some confidence. The right flank might see Lingard come in, who had a decent game after coming up against Stoke. Zlatan Ibrahimovic might get a breather with the club captain and new record holder for most goals scored for United coming in. His experience will be needed with the players alongside being short on it.
This game might look a little too much for Hull but if they get an opener in the first few minutes, the game will be well and truly on. With the way United have been performing, Mourinho would want a rock solid performance from his pupils, this game might just turn out much more interesting than it seems to be. United would ideally want to go out and put the game to bed as soon as possible by scoring a goal or two with the manager wanting to see his players fresh and ready for the Sunday game. Hopefully, all will go to plan for him and United.