Belfast Telegraph

United take a big step on road to big final showdown

By Simon Peach

A huge showdown between bitter rivals Manchester United and Liverpool in the EFL Cup final remains a real possibility after Jose Mourinho's side recorded a 2-0 semi-final advantage against injury-ravaged Hull.

Substitute Marouane Fellaini nodded home a late goal to add to Juan Mata's close-range opener in the first leg while tonight Liverpool take on Southampton in the other last four opening battle.

The sides also meet in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday and Mourinho called on the United fans to create a big noise against the Reds, saying: "My invitation is don't come to the 'theatre'; come to play, to play with us."

United also revealed they have agreed to sell midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin to Everton for £22milion. Schneiderlin has only featured eight times under Mourinho this season, including three Premier League appearances.

With United 10 points behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League and their FA Cup campaign only just starting, the League Cup represents a genuine opportunity for Mourinho to claim a major trophy to add to the Community Shield collected last summer — and his men should finish off Hull in the second leg on January 26.

Mata converted at the far post in the 56th minute, prodding the ball in after Henrikh Mkhitaryan had headed it goalwards.

And United’s advantage was doubled through Fellaini’s 87th-minute header, the Belgian netting eight minutes after coming on for Mata.

Mourinho, however, was not impressed with the first-half performance as his side struggled to carve open the visitors.

The former Chelsea boss said: “Of course they were very well organised defensively like I was expecting.

“It was not easy for us but I thought we were a bit sloppy, complicating things. One more touch, always delaying the decision, giving them time to regroup.

“And it was not our best first half. I think in the first half the players have to do better. I have to do better. The fans they also can do better. In the second half we all improve a little bit, just a little bit.

“Because this game is over I think now about Sunday (against Liverpool). And Sunday I need to do better, the players they need to do better and the stadium they need to do better.

“I was expecting a difficult match. I was not expecting to win four or five. 1-0 for me will always be a good result. But 2-0 is obviously better.

“And with a semi-final we are not at Wembley yet but the second goal is maybe the important goal.”

Mourinho was frustrated with the way his side celebrated Mata’s opening goal with the game still in the balance and added: “In cup ties every goal can be crucial and why celebrate when you have half an hour to play? I don’t think so.

“I think there is no reason for a celebration with the first goal.”

The Portuguese is not concerned about the availability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the weekend clash with Liverpool after he was left out of the game against the Tigers with illness and when asked if he would still be struggling said: “I don’t think so.”

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