Belfast Telegraph

EFL Cup of cheer for Manchester United boss Mourinho

Man United 4 - West Ham Utd 1

By Tim Rich

He was brought to Manchester to win trophies and, although the EFL Cup may be the least regarded of the lot, Jose Mourinho must be favourite to lead his side out at Wembley in February.

The League Cup was the first trophy he won as a manager in England and he fully intends to win it again for a record-equalling fourth time - Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough are the only men to have lifted it more times.

A two-legged semi against Hull is next on that mission.

In both this tournament and the Europa League, Manchester United have beaten opponents in a way they have failed to do when Premier League points have been at stake. On Sunday, West Ham had forced a draw against the flow of play.

Here they were brushed aside in this quarter-final to the extent that, by the time Anthony Martial clipped home his second - sandwiched between a Zlatan Ibrahimovic double - with half an hour remaining, all the crowd wanted to know was whether Wayne Rooney would score the goal he required to equal United's scoring record.

Mourinho, or his assistant Rui Faria - the manager was serving a touchline ban - even felt safe enough to bring on Bastian Schweinsteiger for his first appearance of the season to a standing ovation.

He tried an ambitious shot into the Stretford End and was involved in the move that led to Ibrahimovic scoring the fourth.

Rooney tried manfully but received only a cut face from a high boot for his troubles, as well as a fifth yellow card of the season that will cost him the chance to equal the record at his beloved Goodison Park on Sunday.

The night began with a minute's silence for the dead footballers of Chapecoense. If there was any stadium in the world that would understand what it is to lose a team in an air crash, it was Old Trafford.

Mourinho made his presence felt with the team sheet alone. Unlike Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, he would not be naming a young side to see where the experimentation took him.

His players took less than a few minutes to stamp their authority on the night. The goal may have been finished seamlessly by Ibrahimovic but there was real beauty in its creation, involving two players who had shone in the 4-0 rout of Feyenoord on Thursday night and then been discarded when the Premier League came calling.

Rooney's turn and pass was good but Henrikh Mkhitaryan's back-heel was gorgeous, slipping Ibrahimovic through.

One on one with Zlatan usually provokes only one outcome and goal number 10 of the season duly arrived. But for a double save from Adrian, there would have been 11 soon after.

The number that Old Trafford really cared about was 249, Manchester United's club record tally of goals that Rooney remains one behind.

When Martial was brought down by Pedro Obiang, the England captain had a chance from a free-kick. It was curled beautifully and Adrian, at full stretch, turned it wide.

West Ham would be battered as Feyenoord had been, and the way to the semi-finals was open. However, Old Trafford has become wearily familiar with the Red Devils dominating games they fail to win and this appeared no different.

From nowhere, the Hammers equalised. Breaking away, Obiang delivered a long, crossfield ball to the left flank where Dimitri Payet lurked. Payet drove forward and delivered a typically fierce shot that David de Gea failed to hold.

Meeting it was Ashley Fletcher, who had joined Manchester United as a 13-year-old, played first-team football only on loan at Barnsley and then been transferred to West Ham.

It was his first goal. It was in front of the Stretford End. This would have been the stuff of fantasy when he was at the United academy. He just wouldn't have imagined doing it in another shirt.

However, United started the second half in the same way they had with the first.

Once more Mkhitaryan was the provider, pulling a ball back for Martial that was drilled home. Too often under Mourinho, United had taken and then lost the lead. Now they had it back. The Frenchman added another to make the game safe after the hour, this time with a simple finish.

Rooney had been influential throughout but moved up a gear as he chased his landmark goal. He showed some of his aggression as he won possession and curled wide. He suffered a cut cheek after being kicked in the face by Winston Reid in another attack.

It was not to be for him, however, with Ibrahimovic tapping home the fourth late on.

MAN UTD: de Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Shaw (Blind, 46 mins), Ander Herrera, Carrick, Mkhitaryan (Rashford, 90 mins), Rooney, Martial (Schweinsteiger, 86 mins), Ibrahimovic.

Unused subs: Mata, Lingard, Romero, Schneiderlin.

West Ham: Adrian, Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna, Antonio (Lanzini, 58 mins), Fernandes, Obiang, Cresswell (Masuaku, 45 mins), Feghouli, Fletcher, Payet (Zaza, 76 mins). Unused subs: Randolph, Nordtveit, Noble, Collins.

Man of the match:Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Belfast Telegraph


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