Post-match analysis: How Hull City were eventually worn down by United intensity

Post-match analysis: How Hull City were eventually worn down by United intensity

The Tigers have a mountain to climb in the second leg after losing 2-0 at Old Trafford.

Chris Lincoln

Hull City were left with a tough task to earn a berth at Wembley, as the overwhelming quality of an in-form Manchester United side comfortably defeated the Tigers in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg.

After a lacklustre start to the Jose Mourinho era, United are beginning to find their feet with nine wins in a row and underpinning performances to support their manager's belief that they "have potential to be an exciting team".

Tempo and flexibility proves fruitful for hosts

Despite the absence of top goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Red Devils impressed again on Tuesday evening with quality that was reminiscent of the Old Trafford sides previously spawn under Sir Alex Ferguson. United varied their tempo and offered different routes to goal that caused Hull's makeshift defence various headaches without regular central defenders Michael Dawson and Curtis Davies.

The hosts looked as if they were capable of scoring at any moment and could have easily hit the back of the net more than twice in 90 minutes. Henrik Mkhitaryan missed a guilt-edged opportunity in the first half as both the Armenian and fellow attacking midfielder Wayne Rooney picked up pockets of space in and around the penalty area. Ryan Mason looked out of sorts as the anchor in Hull's midfield and constantly lost runners, whilst United overloaded the left side of the pitch in the first half with Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian looking to exploit David Meyler in an unfamiliar right-back position.

A combination of United's wave of attacks and flexible positioning up front and in midfield made life difficult for Hull to close down the gaps that were appearing. The result was the Tigers being edged further back and unable to play an outlet ball to Abel Hernandez, who became increasingly separated from his teammates, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.

A tactical adjustment at half-time eventually created the opener for United. Mata switched to an inverted right winger role, allowing Antonio Valencia freedom to get forward and exploit the defensive weaknesses of Adama Diomande. The pair combined after threatening early in the second period, as Valencia found Mkhitaryan before duly knocking the ball down for Mata to prod home.

Mata had a huge influence (photo: Getty Images)
Mata had a huge influence (photo: Getty Images)

Tigers down to bare bones with Silva tested to tactical limit

Hull's main threat unsurprisingly came from set-pieces with Diomande offering a warning when he hit the post, though the Norwegian was incorrectly flagged for offside after meeting Robert Snodgrass' delivery.

Yet a lack of offensive strife was a reflection of the problems faced by new manager Marco Silva. With just 15 fit senior players available, the Tigers were dented a further blow when Jake Livermore fell to illness during the warm-up. The result was Mason having to play the anchor role that would have probably been filled by Tom Huddlestone, as the stand-in captain took a place alongside Harry Maguire in central defence to cover for Livermore. 

Another change was then enforced as Markus Henriksen picked up an early injury. The attacking right midfielder was replaced by Abel Hernandez who took a lone striker role, forcing Diomande out wide who duly suffered at the hands of United's attacking endeavour in the wide areas. Yet the Norwegian's problems were similar to those echoed by the likes of Meyler, Mason, Sam Clucas in a more advanced than usual central midfield role and teenager Josh Tymon on the right side of midfield as the Tigers were left unsure in unfamiliar roles.