Manchester United have one foot in the final of EFL cup after their 2-0 win over Hull City at Old Trafford. The goals from Juan Mata and Maraoune Fellaini in second half puts the Old Trafford side in a strong position going into the second leg at KC Stadium in a fortnight.
Jose Mourinho made seven changes to the team which faced Reading on Saturday. United had a timid first half but recovered in the second half. The winning run now stretches to 9 matches and here are the takeaways from the first leg of the semifinal in EFL cup.
Mourinho needs Shaw to return to his best
The Portuguese has almost found his best starting lineup, but the only position which he keeps on tinkering is leftback. Matteo Darmian lined up in that role against Hull City. He started brightly by creating chances from his flank but there are various limitations to the Italian’s game.
Daley Blind is another option which has been tried by Mourinho this season. The Dutchman contributes well in attack, but his lack of pace is often exploited. Blind is a clever player with his positioning but has been looked lethargic in left back lately.
Mourinho desperately needs Luke Shaw to return back to his best form. The 21-year-old has been suffering injury problems and has not recovered completely from the double leg break he suffered last years. Shaw is a complete leftback and has the potential to be the best in the division. The right flank is being managed well by Antonio Valencia and Mourinho will be hoping that Shaw provides the similar outlet from left once he returns.
United learn to win ugly
Manchester United went into the break goalless against Hull City. This scenario was familiar last season and even at the start of this season. The only difference lately which was observed that United deliver in the second half if they suffer a timid first half.
United got an early goal in the second half. The team looked composed throughout the next 30 minutes as Hull tried to get an equalizer. The home side were not at their best, but there is a sure change in mentality. This team has learnt to get the job done even if they are not at their best.
Pogba has replaced Rooney as team’s main man
Wayne Rooney was in search of the goal which would have broken Sir Bobby Charlton’s record for the club. The club captain started for the second time in a space of four days. He was set up by Paul Pogba in second half but his shot was inches wide from the target. He was substituted midway through the second half.
Rooney is still an important player for Mourinho, but as an impact player. He has been the star of the team for a long time who used to fight for his team on the pitch. The time has however changed now, United play good football even in Rooney’s absence and the main man for the club is Pogba. The Frenchman is undroppable and the team’s best performances comes through him. Slowly and steadily Pogba is now the most important player for United.
There is a good headache for Mourinho
United face their biggest test of the season on Sunday. There have been various big games till now this season but this has even greater importance. Liverpool are on second place and United are on a run of 6 consecutive wins in the League. The winner of this game will surely make a statement of intent.
Mourinho has a very good headache going into this game. The defence and midfield picks itself, but the front three is a tricky situation. Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are in form while Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been Mourinho’s first choice option for right flank. Wayne Rooney also looks sharp after recovering from the thigh injury.
The United boss will not drop Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but has a lot to think about the other two positions. It is a very good headache to have for the manager.
Mata more effective from right flank than last season
The future at United looked bleak for Juan Mata when Mourinho was appointed. Six months down the line Mata has become United’s most important and consistent player. It is even more impressive that his output has been even more impressive despite playing in the same position which he used to do last season.
He started again on the right flank which he has done almost every time this year. He is being offered more freedom by Mourinho. Mata roams freely in tiny pockets from left to right creating chances for his team. By the halfway mark he has already has seven goals, three short off his best tally for United in a season. He may not start against Liverpool, but the Spaniard has shown that he is even more effective from right flank than last season.