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Fellaini puts Manchester United in driving seat for the second leg

Man Utd 2 Hull City 0

By Ian Herbert

They knew Old Trafford would have preferred it to be someone else but Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini took Manchester United more than halfway to Wembley.

Their goals both similar in construction, a deep cross from a full-back - Antonio Valencia for the first, Matteo Darmian for the second - should ensure that the second leg of this EFL Cup semi-final is beyond Hull's power to salvage.

There were slight differences, Valencia's cross was headed on powerfully by Henrikh Mkhitaryan and clipped in by Mata, while Fellaini's head alone was enough for the second. Together, they ensured Jose Mourinho is still on course to equal the record of four League Cups held by Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Mourinho has always considered the League Cup as a trophy to win rather than to experiment with young footballers. It was their ninth straight win in all competitions but it should have been by more than two.

Mkhitaryan squandered a glorious chance, Paul Pogba slammed a free-kick against the post and Wayne Rooney, agonisingly, almost broke Sir Bobby Charlton's goal record of 249 for Manchester United.

He had once, seven Januaries ago when he was in his pomp, scored four goals in a single game against Hull. Here, Rooney required just the one and the opportunity for it came in the 51st minute when a long pass from Pogba sent him through in front of the Stretford End. The goal beckoned, the shot came, on the run, and the ball slashed past the far post. Eight minutes later and he was off.

Despite all the criticism that he is irredeemably foreign, this has been a pretty good beginning for Hull's new manager, Marco Silva. His record of promoting Estoril to the Portuguese Premier League, winning the Portuguese Cup with Sporting Lisbon and the Greek championship with Olympiakos by the age of 39 demands respect. Getting to Wembley from here would top everything.

You could get odds of 20-1 against Hull winning this game which was extraordinary for a two-horse race, although given that they had not won at Old Trafford since January 1952, perhaps it was a little stingy.

Hull were so beset by injuries and losses to the Africa Cup of Nations that Silva could not quite fill his bench. Those problems became worse when, after a quarter of an hour, Markus Henriksen attempted what used to be called a good old-fashioned shoulder charge on Pogba.

However, Pogba is built like a good old-fashioned Volvo and the Norwegian midfielder was forced off after treatment, his forearm wrapped in a sling.

Silva, it is said, prefers his teams to play on the counter-attack which given how much United dominated possession was possibly just as well. The issue was that much of United's build-up was so slow and precise you half expected to glance over and see Louis van Gaal in the dug-out.

Hull did, however, threaten sporadically. Harry Maguire, well adrift from his usual position in the heart of the Tigers' defence, kept running with the ball until he reached the United area where, sadly for the 5,000 who had travelled over from Yorkshire's east coast, he duly produced the shot of a centre-half.

Then, nearer the interval, Robert Snodgrass delivered a free-kick into a very crowded area that was met by Adama Diomande's gentle header that struck the post.

There was an offside flag but it would have been enough to remind Old Trafford that four years ago they had screwed up a straightforward League Cup semi-final against Sunderland.

Hull's makeshift backline had performed impressively but were finally opened up in the 56th minute when Mkhitaryan's header was turned in at the far post by Spaniard Mata.

There was an air of relief around Old Trafford that was soon replaced by surprise as Mourinho brought Anthony Martial on as a 59th minute substitute for Rooney. The record will have to wait.

Fellaini, who had come on as a 79th minute substitute for Mata, met a Darmian cross at the far post with a looping header that beat Eldin Jakupovic.

The Belgium midfielder ran straight to Mourinho in celebration as the crowd chanted his name.

Man United: De Gea, A Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Darmian, Herrera, Pogba, Mata (Fellaini 79), Rooney (Martial 59), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 71), Rashford Goals: Mata 56, Fellaini 87. Unused subs: Carrick, Blind, Romero, Fosu-Mensah

Hull City: Jakupovic, Meyler, Maguire, Huddlestone, Robertson, Mason, Snodgrass, Henriksen (Hernández 19), Clucas, Tymon (Weir 90+1), Diomande (Maloney 74) Unused subs: Maloney, Marshall, Bowen, Clackstone

Man of the match: Mata

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Kevin Friend

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