Manchester United continued their winning run on Tuesday night as they beat Hull City 2-0 in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final at Old Trafford

Manchester United extended their winning streak, and made it nine wins in a row on Tuesday, as they toiled hard to beat Hull City 2-0 in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final at Old Trafford and move one step closer to reaching a first cup final under Jose Mourinho’s tutelage.

It was a night when Hull City frustrated their hosts for large parts of the match as Manchester United struggled to create many chances, only able to call Eldin Jakupovic into action on two occasions in the first half.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides second goal his sides second goal during the EFL Cup Semi-Final First Leg match between Manchester United and Hull City at Old Trafford on January 10, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Marouane Fellaini was the cynosure of all eyes (Photo courtesy Clive Mason/Getty Images)

However, they picked up some momentum in the second half, and finally broke the deadlock in the 56th minute as Juan Mata tapped in from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s headed ball to give Manchester United a hard earned lead.

United then went in search of a second goal too give themselves a comfortable cushion ahead of the second leg later this month, but could only come close through Paul Pogba’s free kick, which thumped the upright.

As it looked likely that the match would end with Manchester United winning by the odd goal, Jose Mourinho brought Marouane Fellaini on, and the Belgian rewarded his manager’s faith in him by heading in the second goal three minutes from time, and put him team in a comfortable position after the first leg.

The Hard Tackle discusses the talking points that emerged from a hard-fought Manchester United win.

Manchester United sorely missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s influence

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho iterated after his team’s thumping 4-0 win over Reading on the weekend that he would bring back regular first team players, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia, back into the starting lineup for the match again Hull City.

Surely enough, Mourinho made seven changes from Saturday’s match, and handed starts to his regulars. However, once the team sheets were revealed one of these names was absent from the eleven, the prolific Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who it was later revealed had to miss the game due to illness.

And United missed Ibrahimovic’s influence as the focal point of their attack, as they struggled to break down Hull City for large parts of the match. The Swedish superstar’s remarkable ability to hold up play and bring his fellow attackers into the game was the trait the was missing from United’s attack the most.

Most of all though, the area where the Red Devils missed Ibrahimovic the most was in front of goal, with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford being very wasteful and failing to convert the chances that came their way.

As Manchester United prepare to welcome Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, Mourinho would be hoping his star man can recover from the illness and start in the highly crucial encounter.

Juan Mata showed why he deserves to start more regularly

Jose Mourinho demanded more from his team in the aftermath of Tuesday night’s match as he complained about Manchester United’s slowness in the first half. But if there was one man who looked the likeliest to break through the lines of the opposition defence, it was Juan Mata.

The Spaniard came the closest to opening the scoring for Manchester United in the first half, as he was denied brilliantly by Hull keeper Eldin Jakupovic early on in the match. Mata though, continued creating chances in the first half as combined well with his countryman Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba in the midfield.

And the Spain international was duly rewarded for his efforts as he scored from six yards out to give Manchester United the lead in the match. This was his 33rd goal for United in all competitions, and only Eden Hazard has scored more in the three-year period that Mata has been with the club.

Mata has shown in recent weeks that his contributions are invaluable for United this season, as he also scored the opener for Manchester United in similar circumstances in the match against West Ham United last week, as well as providing the assist for Rooney’s record-equalling goal against Reading.

Mourinho demanded more from his team, but perhaps it’s Mata who deserves to demand more starts from his manager, as Manchester United mount a charge for cup titles and a place in the Premier League top 4.

Marouane Fellaini Becomes An Old Trafford Hero

Marouane Fellaini has endured a trial by fire this season, as he has faced the wrath of the Manchester United fans on several occasions. He became an instant villain for the United supporters after he brought down Everton’s Idrissa Gueye that eventually resulted in his side’s 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

Then he was booed by the Old Trafford faithful as Jose Mourinho brought him on in Manchester United’s home tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

All this while, Fellaini has found support from his manager, who stood by his side through last month’s struggles. And the Belgium international paid him back by doubling the lead for Manchester United to give his side the advantage going into the second leg in a fortnight’s time.

Fellaini embraced Mourinho with a passionate hug, and the villain had turned into a hero for the fans at Old Trafford, who revelled in the Belgian’s efforts to see their side wrap up the win.

Marco Silva And Hull City Give A Good Account Of Themselves In A Resilient Display

To say that this has been a difficult season for Hull City would be an understatement. After starting the season on a surprising note that saw them win their first two league games, the Tigers have managed to win just once and saw manager Mike Phelan sacked just 85 days after being appointed at the helm.

An impressive start - Marco Silva's side frustrated Manchester United for large parts of the match. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

An impressive start – Marco Silva’s side frustrated Manchester United for large parts of the match. (Photo courtesy Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Marco Silva was appointed as Phelan’s replacement, and people didn’t seem to know who the Portuguese was. However, in the two matches since coming into the club Silva has made quite the mark, winning the FA Cup match against Swansea City 2-0 on the weekend, before impressing on Tuesday night.

Silva and his team, even though they lost, can take heart from a truly resilient performance on the night, when they frustrated Jose Mourinho to no end. Hull have been set back heavily by a number of injuries to first team regulars but Silva set up an organised side that was hard to break.

The discipline came to the fore as United only managed two shots on target in the first half before breaking free after half time. Perhaps, with a couple of game changing signings in the January transfer window, Silva could turn things around and mount a fightback. The early signs are positive though for the Portuguese manager.

An improved showing needed against Liverpool

Next up, Liverpool! (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Next up, Liverpool! (Photo courtesy Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Sure, Manchester United got the win on Tuesday, but they had to work really hard for it as Jose Mourinho’s side turned in an underwhelming performances, and created few chances to score from.

Wayne Rooney, bidding to be United’s all-time top scorer was flat throughout his 59-minute stay on the pitch, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has been influential in recent weeks, was wasteful and failed to create much impact through the game, and Marcus Rashford couldn’t impress much either.

This weekend they have a crucial tie against fierce rivals Liverpool that will define United’s fate in their chase for a place in the top 4, and surely enough the entire team needs to raise their performance if they are to have any chance of grabbing a win against Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying side.

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