Manchester United welcome Hull City to Old Trafford on Tuesday evening for the semi-final, first leg of the EFL Cup.
The much belittled competition often serves as a spring board to it’s winner. The two teams could not be enjoying/enduring more polarized fortunes at the moment. Early season silverware could potentially kick start a surge out of the relegation zone for Hull or a late title charge for United.
José Mourinho made a raft of changes as United took on Reading in the F.A Cup on Saturday. The quality of the side he was able to field demonstrated the strength-in-depth at his disposal. Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial all confined to the sidelines for the majority of the season, all on the score sheet.
The Man United manager is adamant no hierarchy exists within his squad, with an attacking arsenal like that to call on the ‘Special One’ is eager to keep everyone happy.
“It’s not going to be easy but I think the fact that you are winning matches is good. And that we are not going to throw away the oppotunity, so today I played with fresh players. I don’t want to put things in (terms of) first team, second team or first choice second choice.”
Mourinho will again opt for those fresh players tonight. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia are all certain to come back into the side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another you would expect to see come back in.
Eric Bailly is out of contention due to his commitments with the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations. Daley Blind has not looked his assured self during his recent stint at left back, many United fans would like to see Luke Shaw get another chance to nail down that spot tonight. Michael Carrick was excellent against Reading but suffered a head injury in the process, Mourinho may also want to save him for Liverpool at the weekend.
For Hull, tonight will only be new manager Marco Silva’s second game in charge of the Tigers, the first a welcome F.A Cup defeat of Swansea. The club will be hoping the ‘new manager bounce’ lasts a little longer but in reality the club has been beset by problems both on and off the field this season. The club’s non-committal attitude towards Mike Phelan led to disillusionment among the players.
Prized asset Robert Snodgrass has openly declared his desire to leave. Silva has a massive job on his hands for the season, putting up a fight across two legs in this tie would be an excellent start.
On the pitch both Harry Maguire (hip) and captain Michael Dawson (shoulder) are unlikely to start. Silva has had no time to get to know his players, tonight he can find out exactly what their made of.
It’s five days until United take on Liverpool, sufficient rest time for most players. So expect a full strength side from United, they will go for the jugular, trying to kill off the tie tonight. If they do, they can afford to rest a couple of players for the second leg.
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena