Manchester United beat Hull City 2-0 to take a slender advantage into the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final but Wayne Rooney’s wait to become his club’s outright all-time top scorer goes on.
United probed without reward in the first half, as they were thwarted by a diligent and well-organised Hull, playing for the second time under Jose Mourinho’s compatriot Marco Silva.
Juan Mata went closest during the opening period for the hosts and, as he did in the fourth round against Manchester City, the Spain playmaker brought Old Trafford to its feet with the opening goal after half-time.
Rooney pulled level with Bobby Charlton on 249 United goals during Saturday’s 4-0 FA Cup triumph over Reading and fired agonisingly wide five minutes before Mata’s 56th-minute breakthrough.
The England captain was taken off shortly afterwards, and he watched substitute Marouane Fellaini add a late second in the knowledge his next tilt at the record should arrive when United host bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday.
Playing behind an injury ravaged Hull side, visiting goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic plunged to his right to make a superb save after Mata swept left-footed towards the bottom corner in the second minute.
Andrew Robertson got there first as Marcus Rashford dragged a shot across the Hull box and Rooney lurked, sniffing the landmark.
Hull were forced into an early change as Markus Henriksen suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder following a challenge with Paul Pogba to further compound their fitness woes.
Before replacement Abel Hernandez was ready to take to the field United should have taken a 19th-minute lead – Henrikh Mkhitaryan sidefooting wide from 10 yards, having been picked out by Juan Mata.
The same duo combined for Mkhitaryan to curl over, while Jakupovic’s handling did not convince when he patted a long-range drive from Pogba behind.
United were largely limited to attempts from a similar proximity as Mourinho left the touchline during first-half stoppage time with the deadlock still intact.
Rooney’s moment looked to have arrived six minutes into the second half – Pogba picking out the England captain in the right channel with a wonderful raking pass, only for him to smash just past the far post.
Maguire got himself in the way of a Pogba shot before United’s nagging pressure found a way through.
Mkhitaryan rose to head Antonio Valencia’s delivery back across goal and a tight offside call fell in Mata’s favour for him to volley home from close range.
The fourth official’s board then informed Rooney history would have to wait for another day and Hull suggested their resolve was still intact as Adama Diomande thumped an overhead kick off target in the 65th minute.
In the build up to the match, Pogba urged United to “finish the tie” at Old Trafford and he almost took a step towards doing just that when his 73rd-minute free-kick rattled the inside of Jakupovic’s left post.
Nevertheless, the odds will remain heavily stacked in United’s favour when the sides meet again at the KCOM Stadium in 16 days after the often-maligned Fellaini towered at the back post to convert Matteo Darmian’s cross.
Fellaini then dashed towards the dugout to embrace Mourinho, who can celebrate nine consecutive wins in all competitions.
Key Opta stats:
– Manchester United have won their last nine games in all competitions, their best run since an 11-game winning streak in February 2009.
– Juan Mata has scored in three of his last four League Cup matches (two goals for Manchester United, one goal for Chelsea).
– All three of Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s assists for Manchester United have been in the EFL Cup.
– Marouane Fellaini has scored his first League Cup goal since August 2013 (Everton v Stevenage).
– The Red Devils have progressed from all three of their previous League Cup semi-finals having won the first leg (1983 v Arsenal, 1991 v Leeds, 1994 v Sheffield Wednesday).
– Man Utd have won 12 and lost none of their last 13 matches against Hull City in all competitions (D1).
– The Red Devils have lost only one of their last 26 home League Cup games against fellow top-flight sides (W24 D1), losing 1-2 against Chelsea in January 2005.
– Hull have failed to score in each of their last four matches against Man Utd, losing three and drawing the other.
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