Man Utd can complete the job they started in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Hull City on Thursday (7.45pm on Sky Sports 1).
The Red Devils were made to work by the Tigers in the first meeting between these two teams at Old Trafford, but goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini (pictured) in the second half ensured the hosts got the job done and secured an advantage heading into this week’s second leg at the KCOM Stadium.
That success was followed by back-to-back 1-1 draws with Liverpool and Stoke City in the Premier League, with Man Utd now having gone 17 matches unbeaten in all competitions since a 2-1 loss to Fenerbahce at the start of November. Their last domestic defeat was in October, when Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners at Stamford Bridge. Things have certainly picked up for Mourinho’s charges after a poor start to the season, with United just 90 minutes away from reaching the final of the EFL League Cup for the ninth time in the club’s history.
Hull were defeated by Chelsea in the Premier League last weekend, with Marco Silva’s men still heavy odds-on for the drop and mired in relegation trouble at the wrong end of the table with 16 matches left to play. This week’s meeting with Manchester United is a welcome distraction from their top-flight struggles. Although it could be argued that the Tigers would be better off focusing 100 per cent of their attention on the league, reaching a cup final would provide a much-needed boost to morale and confidence around the camp. Survival may be the priority, but a shot at silverware is an opportunity that any side in the division would welcome.
Mourinho will have to make do without long-term absentee James Wilson (knee), while Marcos Rojo has been suffering with illness and may be given the night off by the Red Devils’ boss. United fielded a changed side in the first leg earlier this month and will probably do so again this time around, with fringe members of the squad and regular substitutes such as Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Mata, Chris Smalling and Fellaini all hoping to be handed an opportunity to impress from the first whistle.
Hull are without the unfortunate Ryan Mason (well-documented fractured skull), Will Keane (knee), Brian Lenihan (knee), Alex Bruce (Achilles), Moses Odubajo (knee), Greg Luer (knee) and Markus Henriksen (shoulder). Robert Snodgrass is unlikely to play as he seeks a transfer away from Humberside. In more positive news, Curtis Davies is expected to be available for selection following a hamstring problem.
Silva has not been afraid to tinker with his side’s shape in his first few matches in charge. Hull employed a 4-4-1-1 against Swansea City, a 4-1-4-1 against United, a 3-5-2 against Bournemouth and a 3-4-2-1 against Chelsea. Silva may opt to flood the midfield and make life as difficult as possible for their illustrious and star-studded opponents.
Hull have shown a clear improvement since Silva replaced Mike Phelan in the dugout earlier this month, but it will be extremely difficult for them to overturn a two-goal disadvantage in front of their own supporters.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Hull Betting Tips
Consider putting your money behind a United triumph at the KCOM Stadium, with Mourinho’s men likely to absorb pressure and hit their opponents on the counter-attack. This could be another low-scoring game, which means under 2.5 goals looks like another good option. It is worth noting, for instance, that only one of United’s last five games in all competitions has featured more than two strikes. As far as the anytime scorer market goes, Wayne Rooney is this preview’s preferred betting tips’ option.