MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini struck to give Manchester United a 2-0 victory over injury-ravaged Hull City in Tuesday’s League Cup semifinal first leg at Old Trafford. All eyes were on United captain Wayne Rooney, who is chasing a record 250th goal for the club, but it was Mata who broke the deadlock in the 56th minute before substitute Fellaini added a late second. It puts Jose Mourinho’s men in the driving seat ahead of the return leg on January 26, although it was not until Fellaini headed home in the 87th minute that they finally put the game beyond Hull.
Nevertheless, they have now won nine games in succession and look in fine fettle ahead of arch rivals Liverpool’s visit in the Premier League on Sunday.
Hull’s new manager Marco Silva, taking charge of his second game, was able to name only six substitutes and lost both Markus Henriksen and Josh Tymon to injury.
Liverpool, last season’s beaten finalists, visit Southampton in the first leg of the second semifinal on Wednesday.
Despite Mourinho making seven changes to the team that had outclassed Reading 4-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday, United picked up where they had left off, peppering the Hull goal with shots.
Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic had to produce a one-handed save to thwart Mata inside two minutes and moments later Andy Robertson stopped Rooney applying the finishing touch to Marcus Rashford’s shot.
The presence of David Meyler and Tom Huddlestone in defence and the fact there were only six players on the Hull bench told the story of the visitors’ injury problems and there was more to come.
Rooney goes close
Henriksen was left clutching his right shoulder in agony after being knocked over by Paul Pogba and had to go off in the 16th minute, with Abel Hernandez taking his place.
United, missing the ill Zlatan Ibrahimovic, continued to swarm forward, Mkhitaryan twice shooting wide, Rashford lashing over and Jakupovic shovelling a long-range Pogba effort over the crossbar.
But Hull, the Premier League’s bottom club, began to offer an attacking threat of their own as half-time approached in the club’s first ever League Cup semifinal match. — AFP