We preview Thursday night's second leg EFL Cup tie between Hull City and Manchester United.
You have simply got to feel for Hull City’s supporters. Yes, they gave a spirited display at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but two more crucial injuries have rocked a club that has almost been comically afflicted by absentees this year. Manchester United will be pondering the meaning of life after their draw with Stoke. Wayne Rooney managed to break Sir Bobby Carlton’s seemingly impregnable scoring record, but they dropped two points in a game they completely dominated. They will know that this cup could have huge symbolic value for this season, especially with arch-rivals Liverpool potential finalists.
Hull City v Manchester United | Thursday 26 January | KCOM Stadium | 22:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Hull 47/10 | Draw 32/10 | Man united 5/10
The fractured skull of Ryan Mason really epitomised the season thus far for Hull City. To add insult to serious injury, Curtis Davies also looks set to miss a few weeks. And to add further pathos to proceedings, Robert Snodgrass - whose left foot looked the one tool that could extricate them from their current predicament - looks set to depart for West Ham. Having said that, Elabdellaoui and Evandro had fairly effective debuts at the Bridge.
The one player who could offer a path to survival is Abel Hernandez. The Uruguayan international has the movement and finishing prowess to hurt United. Furthermore, Harry Maguire looks dangerous steaming in from that right-hand side. Andrew Robertson’s amazing crossing ability off that left-hand flank could prove crucial, especially if Antonio Valencia is caught out of position on those surging runs forward. I just see a huge struggle ahead containing the more attack-minded United players. Additionally, giving the injury-ravaged nature of their squad, imagine the discrepancy in the two benches on Thursday night.
Mourinho knows that they missed a golden opportunity at the weekend to really announce themselves into the top four fray. Be that as it may, United looked impressive and need to just keep working at the formulas that are clearly being instilled by the manager. I would personally not be surprised if Paul Pogba starts on the bench. He was hugely influential against Stoke but has barely missed a minute the entire season. Rooney will likely have to be content with a place on the bench as Martial could be unleashed on a decimated Hull City. Mata and Mkhitaryan are starting to form a formidable partnership and should also start.
Zlatan will be looking to exploit a makeshift central defensive partnership that will likely include the vastly inexperienced Tymon. I just can’t see Dawson and Tymon dealing with the craft that the Swede brings to proceedings. I also can’t see Hull dealing particularly well with the intricacy of Mata and Mkhitaryan. This looks like it should be a routine evening for a side with that all important 1-0 victory in the home fixture. It affords Mourinho the opportunity to indulge all his worst defensive impulses.
Verdict: Man United 5/10
I can imagine United getting the goal and going into hibernation zone, fully aware that Hull will need to score three. Mourinho will probably instruct his side to be cautious and not expend too much energy with so many big games coming up. Hull have too many injury issues to mount a real challenge here.