Sunday 20 May 2018

Fellaini adds gloss as United put Wembley in their sights

Manchester Utd 2-0 Hull City

Marouane Fellaini scores Manchester United’s second goal against Hull. Photo: PA
Marouane Fellaini scores Manchester United’s second goal against Hull. Photo: PA

Sam Wallace

If Marouane Fellaini had bowled into Jose Mourinho any harder in celebrating his late goal - his first since last April - then perhaps the referee might have had to consider a yellow card for a reckless challenge although there were no complaints from the Manchester United manager.

If Marouane Fellaini had bowled into Jose Mourinho any harder in celebrating his late goal - his first since last April - then perhaps the referee might have had to consider a yellow card for a reckless challenge although there were no complaints from the Manchester United manager.

The first Wembley final of Mourinho's Old Trafford days is just one decent performance away, although United should really have dismantled Hull City so completely to render the return leg of their League Cup semi-final a formality.

The goal from Fellaini, a late substitute, means that they have a much better lead to take to the Kcom Stadium on January 26 against a Hull team who were already low on numbers before they suffered injuries to Markus Henriksen and then Josh Tymon.

Marco Silva's squad is so depleted that he could only name six on the bench, although for all that his team are just about alive in this competition.

Dysfunctional

Antonio Valencia of Manchester United and Adama Diomande of Hull City in action. Photo: Getty Images
Antonio Valencia of Manchester United and Adama Diomande of Hull City in action. Photo: Getty Images

They were unable to prevent Juan Mata from scoring the first goal, but in the circumstances this could have been so much worse for a club that has proved one of the most dysfunctional in the top-flight at times this season.

They seemed to have settled for a one-goal margin of defeat until Fellaini got the second and headed straight to Mourinho whom he almost knocked over in the act of embracing.

This was a game dominated by United and the big guns of their midfield in particular, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but they struggled to unlock the away team with a five-man midfield and a determined application to their task. Only 1,400 of the 9,000 tickets available to the away team's fans were taken at Old Trafford and one can understand their disaffection at much of the season.

Mourinho had left his place in the technical area a few minutes before the break and disappeared down the tunnel, the kind of gesture that is always intended to mean something - but what?

Wayne Rooney powers a shot at goal. Photo: Getty Images
Wayne Rooney powers a shot at goal. Photo: Getty Images

His team had dominated the first half and even so their best chances had been of the kind that Hull could live with.

A collection of hits from long range which were either wide of the mark or, in the case of Pogba's dipping, swerving strike on 29 minutes was pushed away in none-too-convincing fashion by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.

There was one fine run from Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the end of the half when he turned on the jets and glided away from a couple of Hull challenges before trying to slip the ball to Wayne Rooney.

Unfortunately for United, Marcus Rashford assumed the ball was for him and in his attempt to get it under control, David Meyler was able to intervene.

That was typical of United's half. Much good work around the area but a struggle when it came to getting past the five-man midfield of Hull and into the box where Harry Maguire and Tom Huddlestone were at the centre of Marco Silva's back four.

They kept United at arm's length, although a goal could have arrived at any moment.

United controlled the game but they were never able to draw their opponents out sufficiently to create the space that might have given them a sight of goal from within the area.

At the other end there was just one chance for Hull and a good one too when Adama Diomande headed a cross against David De Gea's post. The flag went up subsequently but the Hull striker was not offside.

There was an early injury to Henriksen who went off with his right arm in a sling after just 19 minutes with what looked like a shoulder or collarbone injury after he bounced off Pogba and landed awkwardly.

Pogba shields the ball brilliantly with his immense strength but he was finding it hard to pick out a pass through Hull's defence.

There was no Zlatan Ibrahimovic for United - absent through illness for the first time this season other than the one game he served as a suspension.

The best chance for Rooney to reach the promised land of 250 career goals for United came six minutes in the second half and for a moment it looked like he would.

There was a fine ball down the right from Pogba and Rooney took it masterfully with his right foot, heading into the area at full steam and unleashing a shot just beyond Jakupovic's far post.

Replaced

The striker was replaced with Anthony Martial just before the hour - a decision that Rooney did his best not to look put out by as he handed over the captain's armband.

United had gone ahead just before then with another move that came down the left side of Hull's defence, from Pogba to Ander Herrera in a position to cross the ball.

His cross was won by Mkhitaryan, who got above Meyler in commanding fashion to win the ball and although his header was outside the post, Mata was in just the right place to steer it on target.

In the minutes that followed Mkhitaryan broke again and it seemed then that he was so determined to pass to Rooney that he was second-guessed and the ball intercepted.

The second came when Martial won the ball on the left and Matteo Darmian picked out Fellaini at the back post for a header past Jakupovic to give United a win that puts them within sight of the League Cup final.

Telegraph.co.uk

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport