Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho will wheel out his big guns for EFL Cup mission

Man Utd v Hull City, EFL League Cup semi-final first leg: Old Trafford, Tonight, 8.00pm

By Liam Blackburn

Jose Mourinho insists Manchester United will not be distracted by this weekend's clash with Liverpool and their top-four quest as he bids to maintain his impressive EFL Cup record by reaching Wembley.

United entertain Hull in the first leg of the semi-final tonight and Mourinho has promised to recall the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba for a competition he has always placed importance on.

It was the first trophy he won in England as Chelsea boss back in 2005 and, with subsequent triumphs in 2007 and 2015 in his two spells with the Blues, Mourinho has remarkably never lost a game inside 90 minutes in the competition.

He will take charge of his 28th EFL Cup match at Old Trafford and so - while returning United to the Champions League remains a priority ahead of Sunday's clash with Jurgen Klopp's Reds - the chance for more silverware is a welcome one for Mourinho.

"We play against Liverpool (on Sunday), it's a big match for us but we want to be in the final," he said.

"So we are going to face this Hull match with everything we have, with all the power we have. We know that it's two legs but the second leg is away, so if you can do something in the first leg that gives you an advantage, we are going to try and do that.

"I think for big clubs a competition is a competition. I was never good at choosing competitions. At some of my clubs you arrive at April and you have a busy fixture list but you are in competitions to try to win, to try to do things.

"I won the League Cup twice in Cardiff but when it moved to Wembley I think the meaning is even better so why not try (and win it)?"

Hull have their own priorities in the Premier League having slipped to the foot of the table, a position which cost ex-United player Mike Phelan his job and saw the Tigers appoint Mourinho's fellow Portuguese Marco Silva last week.

Mourinho, 53, spoke to his 39-year-old counterpart on Friday and did not sugar-coat the size of the task, though he believes Silva is well prepared for such a mission based on his managerial background at Estoril, Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos.

"It's not easy to come to the Premier League when you are a foreign coach," Mourinho stated.

"He knows that he's going to face a difficult challenge, they are bottom of the league with 13 points, but it's a big opportunity for him.

"He's known in Portugal as one of the good young coaches. His formation was good because he started from below. He was not given a top job immediately. He did well in a small club in Portugal, then he went to Sporting, he won the cup and finished third in the league. He went to Greece and is a champion with Olympiacos.

"He's very stable, in spite of (being) a young guy, he's experienced because he's stable, very mature.

"I would love him to do well but we all know that in the Premier League when you're bottom of the league it's hard to jump."

Silva approaches Hull's first-ever semi-final appearance in the competition with an eye-watering list of defensive issues.

The Portuguese may have got his reign off to a winning start against Swansea, but Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie laid bare their squad deficiencies as Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore ended the 2-0 victory in central defence.

"We finished this game with our backline having a midfielder as a right-back, two midfielders like centre-backs," said Silva, who deployed David Meyler as a makeshift full-back.

"It is not normal at the level where we are. For all these things, for the situation we have in the table, it is very important to give confidence for the people, change the atmosphere here."

Michael Dawson was forced off against Swansea with a shoulder injury, while Harry Maguire is another doubt for a match that fellow centre-backs Curtis Davies and Alex Bruce will miss through injury.

Ahmed Elmohamady's departure for the African Nations Cup and Moses Odubajo's knee injury means Republic of Ireland midfielder Meyler may again feature at right-back.

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