Man Utd 2-0 Hull: Four Things We Learnt

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Mata heads home – football365.com

A controlled performance from Manchester United helped them to a 2-0 win over Hull City in the League Cup semi-final 1st leg. But what have we learnt from the game?

Hull must keep it on the deck

If Hull played like they did in the first 10 minutes for more of the contest, they might have fared better. In that opening period, we saw them playing the kind of tidy, controlled football that Marco Silva will want to introduce. From then on however, Juan Mata took control of the game and Manchester United began to dominate. Hull invited pressure by dropping off their opponents and clearing the ball every time they received it in their defensive third.

The only reason the hosts took until the 54 minute to score was because of wasteful shooting, Henrikh Mkhitaryan particularly culpable. Centre-back Harry Maguire was one of Hull’s best players. He performed the basics well, did not panic under pressure and when there was space, he went on two marauding runs into opposition territory. More players need to acquire Maguire’s confidence, because Hull’s better moments came in their fleeting spells of possession, when they had the confidence to hold onto the ball.

Snodgrass the key

Hull’s better moments also came through Robert Snodgrass. The ex-Leeds man delivered a free-kick for Adama Diomande to head onto the post, then played through Abel Hernandez for an angled effort just before half-time. In the second half, he slipped in the industrious David Meyler to cross from the right for Diomande, whose improvised effort flew wide. Bearing in mind that Snodgrass was playing in a team that hoofed the ball clear a lot of the time, his productivity was impressive. If Hull get balls into him with a touch more precision, they could find a route to goals and survival.

United’s flexible positioning

Two of Manchester United’s main problems in the post-Fergie era have been: 1) a lack of movement 2) too many sideways passes. Neither of those things were an issue on Tuesday night, or indeed this season.

Without Michael Carrick, often the designated sitting midfielder, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera worked in tandem, one covering when the other supported the attack. Pogba, who hit the woodwork with his firm second half free-kick, played some excellent crossfield passes and used his power to great effect. While Herrera was less direct, whenever United passed sideways one felt confident that the next pass would go forward – a feeling that is becoming increasingly normal under Jose Mourinho’s leadership.

The majestic Mata, the tricky Mkhitaryan, the record-ready Rooney and the hardworking Marcus Rashford rotated and interchanged seamlessly. Because of that, Rashford was at times guilty of not being in goalscoring positions when the ball came into the box. However, his enthusiasm and speed was part of the reason balls were coming into the box in the first place. Had United allied their creativity and movement with a clinical edge, they could have scored a hatful.

Valencia causes problems

When there was a sharp give and go between two of Manchester United’s attacking midfielders, it helped to have right-back Antonio Valencia making a third man run into the space beyond them. That way they could release the ball early and force Hull’s midfield back. Valencia had been a consistent outlet in the first half and moved ever deeper into opposing territory after the restart. His runs had the effect of pulling Diomande, who started the game as Hull’s main striker until Hernandez came on, into his defensive third. This nullified one the away side’s theoretical outlets and therefore forced them to make panicked clearances rather than the more composed passing that leads to openings.

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