Manchester United are heading to Wembley Stadium for the EFL Cup final, after securing a 3-2 aggregate victory over spirited semi-finalists Hull City on Jose Mourinho’s 54th birthday.
The Reds began the match with a 2-0 first-leg lead and that advantage was halved when Tom Huddlestone scored a first-half penalty. Paul Pogba then restored parity on the night before Oumar Niasse’s late goal earned the Tigers a 2-1 second-leg success, but it was not enough to change the outcome of the tie.
Southampton will now provide United’s opposition in the final that is due to be held on 26 February, following Saints’ impressive and deserved last-four victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Prior to Thursday night’s kick-off in east Yorkshire, Hull’s players wore t-shirts that paid tribute to team-mate Ryan Mason as he recovers from a serious head injury suffered when playing against Chelsea at the weekend. Mourinho also wished the player well on behalf of United in his pre-match interviews.
Despite there being a muted atmosphere at the start of the match, with several thousand empty seats in the KCOM Stadium’s upper tier, Hull started with fire in their belly and registered two shots at United’s goal early on through Harry Maguire and Sam Clucas. Marcos Rojo, playing at left-back, then showed his attacking endeavour by pushing forward to hit a deflected effort wide of the post.
A minute’s applause was held in the 26th minute in a second tribute to Mason, yet the clapping came to an abrupt end and was transformed into cries of frustration when the Tigers almost broke the deadlock as Oumar Niasse’s powerful shot was strongly palmed away by David De Gea. The Hull fans were soon cheering, however, when Huddlestone dispatched a 36th-minute penalty into the bottom left corner, after referee Jon Moss harshly penalised Rojo for an apparent shove on Maguire.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic almost equalised immediately afterwards when the Swede dribbled from just inside the halfway line and shot from the edge of area, forcing opposition goalkeeper David Marshall to make an excellent save in the final piece of notable action before the half-time break.
STATS AT HALF-TIME
Possession: Hull 55% United 45%
Shots: Hull 8 United 2
Shots on target: Hull 4 United 1
Corners: Hull 3 United 3
United could and perhaps should have been awarded two penalties at the start of the second half, firstly after Hull captain Michael Dawson appeared to trip Pogba inside the area. Chris Smalling was also bundled to the ground by Huddlestone moments later but Moss waved play on for the second time, to the disbelief of the 4,179 Reds supporters in a packed away end at the KCOM Stadium.
Mourinho’s men deservedly drew level on the night with 66 minutes on the clock when Pogba stabbed home from close range, notching his seventh goal of the season while inspiring booming chants of “We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wembley” from the fans.
Rojo went close to scoring for a second time when his header clipped the top of the bar, before Hull rattled the woodwork themselves through the combative Niasse. The Tigers man unfortunately got his goal soon after, meeting a right-wing cross to finish past De Gea from close range on 85 minutes.
Although the hosts showed admirable fight in the closing stages, United claimed a 3-2 aggregate victory that means the Reds now have a chance to lift a second trophy of the season next month following the FA Community Shield success back in August. Bring on Wembley!
STATS AT FULL-TIME
Possession: Hull 54% United 46%
Shots: Hull 14 United 7
Shots on target: Hull 5 United 2
Corners: Hull 6 United 10
Hull: Marshall, Meyler, Dawson, Maguire, Huddlestone, Tymon, Clucas, Maloney (Evandro 64), Bowen (Markovic 59), Diomande (Hernandez 70), Niasse.
Subs: Kuciak, Robertson, Weir, Elabdellaoui.
United: De Gea, Darmian, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Carrick, Herrera, Lingard (Rooney 79), Pogba, Rashford (Fellaini 90), Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw, Mata, Mkhitaryan.
Booked: Jones, Rojo.