It wasn’t the rout some wanted, but Manchester United took control of the Semi Final tie between themselves and Hull City with a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. They made the fans wait until the second half, but goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini eventually put United ahead and out of sight of the visitors who face an uphill battle on the return leg.
United mesmerised early and started strongly, and had 13 shots to 2 through the first half but were not clinical and most shots were being skied over the bar. The team was mostly solid though, and the deadlock was eventually broken.
Now in control of the tie, United move confidently into the away trip to Hull.
Juan Mata was the best player on the pitch Tuesday, dominating the attack and his passing was a joy to behold. Wasted on the right by Louis Van Gaal, he’s been refreshed under Jose Mourinho. Despite doubts he would be sold by his former Chelsea manager, he’s worked hard and proved his worth.
His penchant for important goals came in handy when he scored the opener after some good work from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antonio Valencia, who again was very good at full back. The Armenian was a tad off the pace but still registered an assist and made some tricky runs which had the opposing defence tripping over themselves.
Mata equalised his Chelsea goal tally by scoring his 33rd for United, which was done in a quicker time than in his tenure in London. He’s arguably a better and more well-rounded player now and Hull’s taped together backline could not handle him. He’s continuing a brilliant campaign, and forcing his way into the XI causing Mourinho a selection dilemma for Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Sunday.
Mourinho Gets It Right, Again
Although he copped early criticism for selection and substitutions in his early Old Trafford days, Jose Mourinho has now found his groove amidst United’s 9 game win and 15 game unbeaten streaks. He got it right with his XI selection, picking a strong lineup which battered Hull. The introductions of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini were all good, with the latter providing the second goal after a great Matteo Darmian cross.
Darmian is a whipping boy for the fans at present, and whilst he’s had his moments of struggle (and been criticised here about his future at the club) he put in a good shift Tuesday. He created chances for Mata, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford, and of course the assist for Fellaini. Criticism of United’s performance are of course valid; but Darmian more than did his job.
Rooney Struggles To Break Record
Wayne Rooney didn’t have the best night out at Old Trafford, often wasteful with his shots. A perfectly weighted pass by Pogba was put by the post by Rooney, and that summed up his night. The record will have to wait another game.. could he do it against Liverpool Sunday?
The Englishman didn’t gel with Marcus Rashford, as the two were quite static up front together for the most part. With the defence starting very deep for the Tigers, Rashford couldn’t get in behind them as he would have liked. Anthony Martial was terrific off the bench, the perfect option to throw out against tired legs. Darmian’s assist to Fellaini doesn’t happen without his persistence.
Midfield Axis Does Well Without Carrick
Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera got by just fine without Michael Carrick, who was given the night off by Jose Mourinho. Herrera’s selfless running and industry remain as important to United as ever, and his emergence as one of the first names on the team sheet is one of the season’s success stories. He is making a case for the Premier League team of the season at present, as his statistics actually outweigh all his deep lying rivals.
Whilst Herrera’s work rate and endeavour continue to impress, Pogba continues to put on clinics with his short and long passing. He set up Rashford and Rooney with superb passes through the lines, and it means United are no longer reliant on Carrick as the only man who can do that from midfield.
The Frenchman also hit the post for the seventh time, it’s scary to think what his season tally of goals and assists would look like with a little more luck for him and his teammates.
Mourinho Issues Liverpool Rallying Cry
Jose Mourinho made his plea to fans, players and the club at large in time for Sunday’s fixture, calling on all to improve ahead of what looms as the most important game of United’s season so far. They’ll need to at their very best against an improving rival who will give them all they can handle on Sunday afternoon.
“The players have to improve, I have to improve and the fans also have to improve for a big match on Sunday. Today our performance was good enough to win but, on Sunday, we all have to improve. I always think we are responsible for the fans’ participation in the game. It’s our responsibility.
If we play well and enthusiastically, the fans come on to the pitch. When we don’t play so well, and not with emotion and intensity, it’s normal for the fans to relax a bit. We have amazing fans. When we were not good, they were behind us, pushing us, supporting us.
What I feel is that Sunday is a special match for us, a special match for Manchester United fans. Don’t come to the theatre — come to play with us.”
The aura around Old Trafford is something special at the moment, and United will be loathe to let it be tarnished by a bad result on Sunday. Making their climb back up the table continues with Liverpool, and can Mourinho’s men respond to his call?