The first EFL Cup semi-final sees Manchester United host Hull City and Jose Mourinho will be hopeful of reaching his first final in the Old Trafford hot seat. It won’t be easy as they are coming up against a side with a new manager, but they have to be considered favourites to prevail. Although it is generally preferred to have the second leg at home, United will be confident of winning the tie in this match alone and we could see a strong line-up from the home side.
Mourinho has won the competition on three occasions as Chelsea manager and he will be hopeful of winning it in his first season at Old Trafford. It is a competition that he has always respected and it is no surprise that Manchester United have made it to the semi-finals. They have managed to record a good win over their local rivals Manchester City on their way to this stage and a possible final against historical rivals Liverpool could be on the horizon. It would be a huge confidence booster for this United side if they manage to win this competition with wins over both City and Liverpool.
There has been a lot of opposition to the appointment of Marco Silva in the media, but he has a good CV and in all honesty, it is a coup that Hull City have managed to attract him to their club. It would be one of his greatest achievements if he keeps the Tigers in the top flight as they have one of the worst squads in the league and are currently bottom of the table. A victory over Swansea City in the FA Cup has provided the new manager with some momentum and he will want to give United a real test over this two-legged semi-final. He has been compared with his compatriot in the past and he will be eager to test himself against one of the best managers of recent times.
Manchester United have been in great form in recent weeks and have won their last eight matches in all competitions. They are beginning to build momentum and we may finally see the return of the old Manchester United in 2017. Although the EFL Cup isn’t their main focus, it would be good for the side to win the first trophy of the Jose Mourinho, providing them with a platform for bigger things.
Hull City’s win over Swansea in the FA Cup was their first victory in 90 minutes since the beginning of November. They have competed well in recent weeks, but they have failed the points and that is why the managerial change was made. The Tigers will be hopeful that Marco Silva has the tactical nous to improve results on the pitch. They are relatively lucky to get to this stage after being thoroughly outplayed in the last round against Newcastle. Hull had only 12 shots to Newcastle’s 32 across the 120 minutes, but managed to prevail on penalties.
Jose Mourinho has confirmed that the players that didn’t play against Reading will come in for this one. This likely means starts for Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I would expect Michael Carrick to be given a rest, which would likely mean that Marouane Fellaini keeps his place in the first team.
There is little room for manoeuvre for Marco Silva as Hull’s squad is stretched with injuries. He will be hoping that Michael Dawson can pull through as otherwise there could be major selection issues at centre back. Abel Hernandez could return to the starting eleven after scoring at the weekend against Swansea.
Manchester United Hull City
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Luke Shaw is closing in on a return from his groin strain, but he is unlikely to start against Hull City. Marcos Rojo is unlikely to feature after contracting a calf injury against Reading. Eric Bailly is at the African Cup of Nations.
Michael Dawson and Harry Maguire are both doubts for the away side. Curtis Davies and Allan McGregor are close to returns, but are unlikely to be risked in this one. Alex Bruce, Moses Odubajo and Will Keane remain long term absentees.
It looks like Manchester United want to win this competition and the strong side that they are likely to select emphasises that. I find it difficult to make a case for Hull considering their injury problems. They nearly held on for a point against United earlier in the season, but the Tigers have bigger injury problems now and they will be coming up against a much better side. Hull will attempt to keep the score down, but it is difficult to see them doing so. I expect a convincing home victory.
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