Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini struck to give Manchester United a 2-0 victory over injury-ravaged Hull City in Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford.
All eyes were on United captain Wayne Rooney, who is chasing a record 250th goal for the club, but it was Mata who broke the deadlock in the 56th minute before substitute Fellaini added a late second.
It puts Jose Mourinho’s men in the driving seat ahead of the return leg on January 26, although it was not until Fellaini headed home in the 87th minute that they finally put the game beyond Hull.
“We are not at Wembley, but the second goal is maybe the important goal,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“I was expecting a difficult match. I wasn’t expecting to win by four or five.”
Despite Mourinho making seven changes to the team that had outclassed Reading 4-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday, United picked up where they had left off, peppering the Hull goal with shots.
Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic had to produce a one-handed save to thwart Mata inside two minutes and moments later Andy Robertson stopped Rooney applying the finishing touch to Marcus Rashford’s shot.
The presence of David Meyler and Tom Huddlestone in defence and the fact there were only six players on the Hull bench told the story of the visitors’ injury problems and there was more to come.
Henriksen was left clutching his right shoulder in agony after being knocked over by Paul Pogba and had to go off in the 16th minute, with Abel Hernandez taking his place.
United, missing the ill Zlatan Ibrahimovic, continued to swarm forward, Henrikh Mkhitaryan twice shooting wide, Rashford lashing over and Jakupovic shovelling a long-range Pogba effort over the crossbar.
Rooney’s moment of history looked to have arrived in the 51st minute when Pogba’s fine, flighted pass set him racing in on goal from the right, but he drilled his shot inches wide of the far post.
Instead it was Mata who provided the breakthrough, stabbing in on the volley at the back post after Antonio Valencia’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Mkhitaryan.