Manchester United will host Hull City in the first of two legs, at home, to book a place in the League Cup final at Wembley, where the Red Devils have been quite successful in 2016 winning the FA Cup and the Community Shield.
United are on a great run, their best winning streak (eight on the spin) since they were crowned champions and there is a real upturn in confidence and belief. They go into this game on the back of a comfortable 4-0 win at Old Trafford against Reading to seal progression to the fourth round of the FA Cup. With a genuine opportunity to lay down a marker and take a big step towards reaching another cup final, which United have not done more often in the last few years, it’s one of the most pivotal games that Jose Mourinho will have his side play, certainly in this season.
Hull City, on the other hand, have a endured a difficult campaign since August, although not unexpected. With the appointment of Portuguese Marco Silva who has already drawn a few comparisons with his counterpart on Tuesday – Jose Mourinho, Hull will come to Old Trafford without letting much on. The new manager said,
“It’s about staying in the game [against Man Utd]. We will try to bring it here and bring it back here open and qualify from the second game. That is our focus.”
The visitors may indeed have other priorities – i.e staying in the division but they will fancy themselves to get something from Old Trafford to take back to the KCOM stadium, as nothing beats reaching a cup final than beating one of the favourites, which could do a world of good for the atmosphere around the club, which at the moment is nothing but toxic
Mourinho has a full squad to choose from besides Eric Bailly and the readiness of Marcos Rojo is still unconfirmed. Luke Shaw is expected to make a long awaited comeback and the manager has indicated that fresher players would start in midweek including the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba who were all rested during the FA cup 3rd round fixture in the previous weekend.
Hull City face a defensive crisis with Curtis Davies missing out on the trip to Old Trafford after picking up a hamstring problem. Michael Dawson is set to have have further tests on a shoulder injury before a decision is made on if he will travel, with the inclusion of Harry Maguire and Abel Hernandez also yet to be decided upon. As for absentees, Moses Odubajo (knee) and Ahmed Elmohamady (Africa Cup of Nations) will miss out on the trip to Old Trafford. Hull are also without strikers Will Keane (knee) and Dieumerci Mbokani (Africa Cup of Nations).
- Man Utd have reached the League Cup semi-final for the 14th time; only Liverpool (17) have made more.
- In contrast, this is the first time that Hull City have reached the League Cup semi-final.
Ander Herrera – Manchester United
Ander Herrera has been one of the most important players for Manchester United in this mini resurgence under Mourinho. From midfield, he provides the right amount of balance and bite that is necessary for the Red Devils to function without the risk of being overrun by opposition. Having completed the highest amount of interceptions in opposition half, Herrera initiates several of United’s attacks and generally sets the tone of the game from the middle. In a tie where goals scored at home for Manchester United will prove vital, Herrera holds the key to ensuring they manage to absolutely control the fixture over two legs – to secure passage to the final.
Robert Snodgrass – Hull City
For Hull City, even a goal at Old Trafford could be significant with the advantage of playing the return leg at home, in front of their own fans. Snodgrass is undeniably their biggest attacking threat having scored or assisted 9 goals in 18 starts in the Premier League. He has already scored a couple in this competition and he will have to be able to replicate his form in the biggest of stages, if the visitors were to have any chance of making it to their first league cup final in the club’s history.
United are firing on all cylinders and with the quality they can bring in on Tuesday, I could only see this going one way.