Manchester United were held to a hugely frustrating goalless draw at Old Trafford on Wednesday night as Hull City ground out a point to aid their cause at the bottom of the Premier League.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Marcos Rojo all brought fine saves from Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who was in inspired form between the posts for the visitors. But despite dominating proceedings, it wasn’t to be United’s night as Jose Mourinho’s men could not find a way past the resolute Tigers.
For the second successive game, Mourinho made nine changes as the boss restored several first-team regulars to a strong line-up, with Marcos Rojo and Henrikh Mkhitaryan the only survivors from the side which beat Wigan 4-0 on Sunday to reach the FA Cup fifth round.
The Reds started positively and, as early as the second minute, Mkhitaryan was released in behind by an intelligent Ander Herrera pass but Hull defender Andy Robertson poked the ball to safety before the Armenian could get a shot away.
The first real chance of the night, however, came the way of the visitors in the eighth minute when Harry Maguire, up from the back, got free to head inches wide of the post from a David Meyler free-kick.
The Reds were then inches away from the breakthrough on the quarter-hour mark as Zlatan Ibrahimovic unleashed a stunning 25-yard effort which was tipped wide by Tigers keeper Eldin Jakupovic before Rojo flashed a header over after Rashford’s flick kept a Mkhitaryan corner alive.
Daley Blind sent an ambitious volley over the crossbar from the edge of the box after excellent build-up play involving Herrera and Antonio Valencia, whose cross from the right flank was initially cleared by Sam Clucas.
The teams’ third meeting in 23 days proved to be just as tight as their two-legged EFL Cup semi-final, with United finding the stubborn Tigers a tough nut to crack once more in the first half.
Top scorer Ibrahimovic got on the end of a neat Paul Pogba lay-off but his low shot trickled through to Jakupovic, who moments later produced a fine near-post save to deny Pogba as the Reds were left frustrated at the interval.
HALF-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: United 66% Hull 34%
Shots: United 7 Hull 4
Shots on target: United 3 Hull 1
Corners: United 4 Hull 1
Mourinho turned to the array of attacking talent on the United bench at half-time in a bid to change the game as captain Wayne Rooney replaced Michael Carrick, who had worn the armband in the first period.
Roared on by the home crowd, the Reds continued to probe patiently and went close when Rashford’s tame effort rolled agonisingly wide of the far post after the forward beautifully controlled Pogba’s pass which got him in behind the Hull backline. Ibrahimovic then screwed an effort wide on the turn after Rashford’s knockdown into the danger area from Valencia’s deep cross.
The Reds, who lost Phil Jones to an apparent injury minutes earlier, introduced Juan Mata in place of Mkhitaryan just after the hour mark and the Spaniard soon had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock. Fellow substitute Chris Smalling’s header across the face of goal from Herrera’s delivery found Mata unmarked at the back post but he was somehow thwarted by a remarkable save from Jakupovic on the line.
The visitors from East Yorkshire appeared to escape again when Ibrahimovic appeared to be bundled over in the penalty area by Tom Huddlestone but, despite United’s vociferous appeals for a penalty, referee Mike Jones decided the striker was guilty of handball.
Despite piling on the pressure, the Reds found clear-cut chances hard to come by as Hull stayed firm. Indeed, Marco Silva’s side almost stole all three points late on when on-loan Liverpool midfielder Lazar Markovic’s fierce effort rebounded back off David De Gea’s left-hand post with five minutes remaining before substitute Abel Hernandez found himself clean through on goal but he could only strike straight at De Gea.
At the other end, Rojo’s looping header and a curling effort from Pogba were kept out by Jakupovic as the Reds pushed hard for a winner during five minutes of stoppage time but Hull held out for a point.
The Reds return to action on Sunday afternoon with a trip to the King Power Stadium to face faltering champions Leicester City (KO 16:00 GMT).
FULL-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: United 67% Hull 33%
Shots: United 15 Hull 6
Shots on target: United 6 Hull 2
Corners: United 7 Hull 1
United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones (Smalling 55), Rojo, Blind; Carrick (c) (Rooney 45), Herrera; Mkhitaryan (Mata 61), Pogba, Rashford; Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Young, Lingard, Martial.
Hull: Jakupovic; Meyler, Dawson (c), Maguire, Robertson; Clucas, Huddlestone; Markovic, Evandro (Elabdellaoui 72), Tymon (Ranocchia 66); Niasse (Hernandez 69).
Subs not used: Marshall, Maloney, Bowen, Diomande.
Booked: Niasse, Clucas, Markovic, Meyler