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Manchester United picked up their 9th consecutive win in all competitions as second half goals from Juan Mata and substitute Marouane Fellaini gave the Red Devils a 2-0 cushion to carry for the second leg of their League Cup semi-final with Hull City at the KC Stadium.
Missing star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic through illness, Manchester United failed to break down a stubborn Hull City side in the first half, despite seeing 71% of the ball and having 13 shots on goals. Mata was the Red Devils' most influential player, seeing his crisp shot from Matteo Darmian's left wing cross turned around the post by goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.
Paul Pogba looked threatening right through the game, putting in a dominant physical display in the middle of the park that included a shoulder barge with Hull City's Markus Henriksen, which unfortunately left the 24 year old Norwegian with a dislocated shoulder.
Pogba had a couple of speculative efforts from distance tipped around the post for corners. In what was a recurring theme for United, Henrikh Mkhitariyan, Marcus Rashford and Antonio Valencia all had shots on goal from decent positions, but failed to test Jakupovic.
United were almost dealt a sucker punch at the end of the first half when Adama Diomande hit the far post with his header, but his effort was ruled offside.
Early in the second half, Wayne Rooney had a glimpse at goal for strike no.250, but dragged his shot from just inside the right hand channel wide of the far post.
United did get the breakthrough shortly after as Juan Mata stabbed home Mkhitaryan's header at the far post after he sent Antonio Valencia's right wing cross back in the direction from which it came. Hull City appealed vigorously for offside, but the referee who ruled out Diomande's effort appeared to believe that Mata was just on, though replays suggested it was very close and could have easily gone the other way.
Rooney was withdrawn shortly after the goal, and as the game progressed Jose Mourinho continued to make changes, eventually throwing on Marouane Fellaini with about 10 minutes to go in the contest.
Pogba was unlucky not to cap an all action display with a goal when he saw his wickedly curling freekick strike the post, but United were to get a late second when Fellaini looped in a header over Jakupovic from Darmian's cross to put United firmly in control of this semi-final tie. The big Belgian celebrated by giving his Manager a huge hug for having stood by him even under extreme criticism from the United fans.
Another substitute Anthony Martial came close to grabbing a third for the Red Devils, but saw his effort tipped wide by Jakupovic, leaving United with a two goal cushion to defend when these sides meet again on 26th January.
Jose Mourinho meanwhile appeared to have one eye on this weekend's clash with Liverpool when he shared after the game, "We have to improve for Sunday. Today our performance was enough to win, but Sunday we all have to improve."
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Pogba, Herrera; Mata (Fellaini 79'), Rooney (Martial 59'), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 71'); Rashford.
Unused Subs: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Blind, Carrick.
Hull City: Jakupovic; Meyler, Maguire, Huddlestone, Robertson; Henriksen (Hernandez 19'), Mason, Clucas, Tymon (Weir 90+1'), Snodgrass; Diomande (Maloney 74').
Unused subs: Marshall, Clackstone, Bowen.
Final Score: Manchester United 2-0 Hull City (Mata 56', Fellaini 87')
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