Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's EFL Cup
semi-final second leg between Hull City
and Manchester United
! One of these two teams is just 90 minutes away from Wembley, where Southampton are awaiting them for the February 26 final. United are heavy favourites to progress courtesy of their 2-0 triumph in the first leg, but Hull have improved under new manager Marco Silva
and will not have given up hope just yet. Let's start with a look at the team news...
HULL STARTING XI: Marshall; Maguire, Dawson, Tymon; Meyler, Huddlestone, Clucas, Maloney, Diomande, Bowen; Niasse
HULL SUBS: Kuciak, Robertson, Hernandez, Elabdellaoui, Weir, Evandro, Markovic
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Smalling, Rojo; Carrick, Herrera, Lingard, Pogba, Rashford; Ibrahimovic
MAN UTD SUBS: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Shaw, Fellaini, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rooney
What can we make of those two teams, then? Well, the headline news as far as Hull are concerned is the inclusion of Oumar Niasse
up front, with the former Everton flop being handed his full Hull debut this evening. He made his first appearance since his January move during the defeat to Chelsea last time out but gets an opportunity to show what he can do from the start here, replacing Hernandez in the starting XI.
That is one of seven changes made by manager Marco Silva
for tonight's match, with Maguire, Dawson, Huddlestone and Clucas the only players to retain their places from the defeat at Stamford Bridge. That is perhaps a hint that Silva sees this as a particularly tough one to turn around and is taking the opportunity to rest his players for the Premier League relegation battle. The likes of Maloney and Diomande will be eager to prove their worth, though, while youngsters Tymon and Bowen should bring plenty of desire to the Hull side.
One enforced change for Hull is the absence of Ryan Mason, with the midfielder having suffered a fractured skull during a clash of heads with Chelsea's Gary Cahill at the weekend. There have been positive updates on his progress so far, but Silva said in the build-up to this match that any events on the field are of secondary importance to the wellbeing of Mason. The Hull players can be forgiven for having something bigger on their mind than this evening's game, but the desire to do well for Mason could also spur them on.
Curtis Davies also misses out with a hamstring injury for the Tigers this evening, while Robert Snodgrass remains out with a muscle problem having seen two bids accepted for him in the past few days. Marshall replaces the rested Jakupovic between the sticks, while Meyler comes into the side for Mason. There is a notable inclusion on the bench too, with Liverpool loanee Lazar Markovic looking to make his debut for the club this evening.
As for Manchester United, Mourinho is taking no risks for this evening's match and has named a strong starting XI, which includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line. The Swede has been the star of the show for United so far this season, and Mourinho has resisted the temptation to rest him, safe in the knowledge that a weekend FA Cup tie against Wigan is perhaps a more appropriate game in which to do that.
Ibrahimovic is not the only high-profile summer arrival to be included in the United side tonight, with Paul Pogba
also retaining his place in the side. The world's most expensive player looks set to feature in a more advanced role than he played in against Stoke, with the United teamsheet suggesting a trio behind Ibrahimovic of Lingard, Pogba and Rashford. The latter of those has struggled to match his heroics from last season just yet, but his pace down the flank could prove to be a problem for a Hull side who look like playing three at the back.
There is no place in the starting XI for new record goalscorer Wayne Rooney, while the likes of Mata, Mkhitaryan and Martial all miss out too, the latter of whom not even making the squad. In all, Mourinho has made five changes to the side that drew with Stoke last time out, with Michael Carrick among those to return to the side. He is given the armband alongside Herrera in the middle of the park, while further back there is a return from illness for Marcos Rojo.
Rojo will start at left-back this evening, but he may not last the whole game in that position with Luke Shaw making his return to the bench. Shaw has struggled with his fitness so far this season, to the point where Mourinho publicly questioned him earlier in the campaign, but he recently returned to training and will be hoping to get a few minutes under his belt this evening. Jones and Smalling resume their centre-back partnership, while Darmian gets a rare start in his preferred right-back role.
The odds are certainly stacked against Hull tonight, and that United team selection will not have done anything to raise the hopes of the home fans this evening, but their chances of overturning the two-goal deficit seem better now than they might have a month or so ago. Mike Phelan did an admirable job in very tricky conditions, but the arrival of Marco Silva as manager seems to have given the club a lift and he has made a good, promising start to his reign.
The Tigers have won two of their four outings under Silva so far, which is as many as they managed in their final 17 matches under Mike Phelan across all competitions. They have beaten Swansea in the FA Cup and Bournemouth in the Premier League, and their only defeats under Silva have come at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. There is, of course, no disgrace in a club of Hull's stature losing against that calibre of opposition, but it doesn't bode too well for tonight's game.
One thing that may give the Tigers some optimism is their home form, which has improved as the season has progress. Hull have lost just one of their last eight matches at the KCOM Stadium across all competitions, and their only defeats on home soil all season have come against teams in the top nine of the table. Under Marco Silva they have won two from two here, stringing together back-to-back home wins for the first time this season. Should Hull maintain that 100% record tonight then it would be three in a row for the first time in more than a year.
No fewer than 12 of Hull's 16 Premier League points have come at home too, as have 14 of their 20 goals, so it is clear to see that they are significantly better in front of their own fans than they are on the road. That may not quite be enough to save them, though, and while a trip to Wembley would be a huge occasion for a club like Hull, Premier League survival remains the priority. The Tigers are currently 19th in the table, two points from safety, and they face United, Liverpool and Arsenal in their next three league games.
It is hard to argue against Hull deserving their place down towards the bottom of the table. Only Middlesbrough have scored fewer this season and only Swansea have conceded more, leaving Hull with the worst goal difference in the division - something which could prove important given how tight things are at that end of the table. Their performances are improving, though, and they are no longer an easy touch for any team in the division. A 2-0 defeat against Chelsea last time out did nothing for their survival hopes, of course, but the runaway league leaders struggled at times against the Tigers, who would have been encouraged by their performance.
If things look relatively bleak in the Premier League, their EFL Cup hopes are really hanging by a threat tonight. Of the last 27 teams to have lost the first leg of a semi-final in this competition by two or more goals, 26 of them have failed to overcome that deficit and crashed out, with the exception being Aston Villa in 1993-94. The opposition on that occasion was Tranmere Rovers rather than Manchester United, though, and Villa still needed penalties to get the job done.
This is, however, already Hull's best ever run in this competition, surpassing their quarter-final place last season. The Tigers reached the final of the FA Cup in 2014 and let a two-goal lead slip against Arsenal at Wembley, so they will be desperate not to pass up the chance to reach the home of football once again. The most impressive piece of silverware in their trophy cabinet at the moment is the Third Division title from 1965-66 - not counting the trophy given for winning the Championship playoffs - so reaching the final would be a huge deal for a club like Hull.
United's job certainly isn't done either. Hull have not lost a home match in this competition since August 2011 when they were beaten by Macclesfield in the first round, winning six in a row since then - although they did need penalties on three of those occasions. They also failed to score more than one goal in any of those games, something they will need to do against United tonight if they are to progress. For their part, United simply need to bide their time and pick Hull off tonight, although an early goal would effectively kill the tie off too.
Perhaps the most encouraging statistic for Hull this evening is that United have lost four of their last five away League Cup games against fellow top-flight opposition, the most recent of which came against Sunderland in January 2014. They have also not won back-to-back League Cup away games since 2011 - something they have a chance to do this evening following their victory at Northampton Town earlier in this season's competition.
Hull not only have to beat United tonight, though, they have to do it by more than two goals if they are to avoid extra time and penalties too. Simply winning against Mourinho's side would be an achievement, and it is something no team has managed since the beginning of November. United are currently on a 17-match unbeaten streak across all competitions, winning 12 of those. However, there has been a minor dip in the past couple of weeks, with back-to-back draws following on from nine consecutive wins.
There is still plenty of work to be done for the Red Devils, who remain sixth in the Premier League table, four points off the top four and 14 off leaders Chelsea, but things certainly do seem to be heading in the right direction. The ongoing unbeaten streak proves that they are becoming harder to win against than they have been in recent seasons, and the old Ferguson trademark of late goals seems to be coming back too - 10 of United's last 14 goals in all competitions have come in the 75th minute or later.
United have also been impressive on the road this season, and they come into this match on an eight-match unbeaten streak on their travels, stretching back to November 3. They had won four consecutive away games before the 1-1 draw with Stoke at the weekend, in which they needed a 94th-minute equaliser from Wayne Rooney, but even after that they still boast a better away record than home record in the Premier League this season.
Despite United's dominance of English football over the last two decades and more, this is a competition which they have only ever won four times, the most recent of which came in 2010, which was also the last time they reached the final. However, it is a trophy that Jose Mourinho
will regard highly. He won it three times during his two spells with Chelsea, and it was actually his first piece of silverware in England when he lifted it 12 years ago.
The omens are certainly good for another appearance in the final this evening. United have progressed on the three previous occasions in which they have won the first leg of a semi-final in this competition, overcoming Arsenal in 1983, Leeds in 1991 and Sheffield United in 1994. They have also won nine of their past 10 League Cup final second leg matches, with their only defeat coming at the hands of Chelsea in 2004-05 en route to Mourinho's first trophy in English football.
PREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the KCOM Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction! The hosts have no option but to go for this match, which could in turn leave them open to the pace of Rashford and co. If Hull can get the first goal then it could make things very interesting, but I'm going for a 1-0 away victory to send United through to Wembley.
Such a result would fit in with the previous meetings between these two sides, with Hull failing to score in their last four games against United. The Tigers are winless in their last 13 too, losing 12 of those in a dreadful run that stretches all the way back to 1974. In all, Hull have won just five of their 30 meetings with United in all competitions, although four of those wins have come on home soil.
The Tigers have never beaten United at this particular stadium, though, with the Red Devils winning four and drawing one of their five previous Premier League visits. Indeed, only Arsenal and Chelsea - both six - have visited the KCOM Stadium more often without losing, and you have to go back to Hull's time at Boothferry Park in 1974 for their most recent home win over United.
These two sides have met on three previous occasions in the League Cup, with United winning all three without conceding a goal. The most recent of those was, of course, the 2-0 win at Old Trafford in the first leg, where Mata and Fellaini built the advantage United bring to the KCOM tonight. These two have met in the Premier League here already this season too, with Marcus Rashford scoring a 92nd-minute winner to hand United a 1-0 win.
Right, we're just a couple of minutes away from kickoff at the KCOM Stadium! A reminder that the winner of this tie will set up a showdown with Southampton in the final at Wembley on February 26.
KICKOFF: Here we go! Hull City get us underway for the second leg of this EFL Cup semi-final. Can the hosts overturn this two-goal deficit?
It is a freezing night in Hull, and this game hasn't quite warmed up in the opening minutes here. Both sides just knocking it about at the back at the moment.
United almost get in behind for the first time tonight as Rashford manages to bundle his way through a challenge from Meyler and race inside. He drops the ball back to Pogba, who in turn looks for Herrera, but the defence is quickly out to him.
Hull are struggling to get out at the moment, with a few wayward passes allowing United to keep the pressure on inside the home side's half. Still no chances to speak of for either side, though.
The visiting United fans are making their voices heard tonight. There are plenty of them here at the KCOM Stadium and they have not stopped singing so far.
CHANCE! Hull win the first corner of the match and Ibrahimovic is only able to flick it on to the back post. Maguire takes it down on his chest, but then thumps a volley a long way over the crossbar. No more than a half chance, but still our first sight of goal tonight.
YELLOW CARD! Good play from Niasse as he skips past a couple of United defenders before being stopped in his tracks by a Phil Jones body check. Jones goes into the book and Hull have a free kick in a good position...
SAVE! Clucas goes for goal and gets a decent effort on target, but it is too close to De Gea who beats it away. Shortly afterwards Niasse has a potshot from range, but it lacks the power to trouble De Gea.
United win a free kick in a good crossing position at the other end following a foul from Meyler on Rashford, but the delivery goes all the way through for a corner, which comes to nothing.
United haven't really got going in this match so far. Their team selection suggested that they would push to kill this game off, but they are yet to trouble Marshall in the Hull goal. Still a long way to go, though.
SHOT! Rojo attempts to do just that as he collects Pogba's pass and goes from goal from 25 yards, but his powerful strike hits Dawson and flashes wide for a corner.
Good defending from Dawson as he steps in to make an important challenge on Ibrahimovic before clearing the danger and taking a knock off Lingard for his troubles.
The first thing on Marco Silva's wishlist tonight would most likely have been to ensure his side are still in the tie after 20 minutes, and he can tick that off now. He will be relatively pleased with what he has seen from the hosts so far.
Chance for United to break through Lingard and Pogba, but Hull get back quickly and eventually Niasse brings the United midfielder down to concede a free kick.
Almost a chance for United as a deep free kick finds Ibrahimovic at the back post. His knock back to Pogba is intercepted, but the ball drops back to Ibrahimovic, who takes it past one defender in the box before flashing a cross into the six-yard box. Diomande is well placed, though, and sorts his feet out in time to clear the danger.
Applause rings around the KCOM Stadium as the clock ticks to 25 minutes and a picture of Ryan Mason comes up on the big screen.
CHANCE! Big chance for Hull to get a goal back! Huddlestone hooks a high ball back into the box after an initial corner was cleared, and suddenly Dawson finds himself in a great position inside the box. His first touch is brilliant, but he is denied a second by a fine last-ditch challenge from Smalling. The ball then falls to Niasse, who catches his shot very sweetly, but it is straight at De Gea.
SHOT! Hull win a free kick just outside the United area and this time it is Maloney who goes for goal, but his strike flies a few yards over the crossbar.
One route where United have had a bit of success tonight is down there left flank, where Rashford is up against Meyler. The youngster beats his marker for pace here before turning back inside, but Meyler gets a challenge in at the third time of asking.
We're more than half an hour into this game now and it is Hull who have looked the most like scoring so far. United still have that two-goal cushion, though, and the hosts need to take a chance sooner rather than later if they are to keep their hope alive.
Another positive break from Hull as Meyler is not tracked by Rashford and collects the ball on the right. He delivers a cross towards the back post which Darmian is forced to put behind for a corner.
PENALTY TO HULL!
GOAL! Hull 1-0 Manchester United (Tom Huddlestone)
Now then! We have a tie on our hands here as Hull pull a goal back - deservedly, it must be said! Jonathan Moss points to the spot after both Diomande and Maguire ended up on the floor from the corner, with Jones and Rojo their respective markers. Whoever committed the foul, it looks rather soft, but Huddlestone doesn't worry about that as he steps up and buries an inch-perfect penalty right into the bottom corner. Game on!
All of a sudden Hull's task looks a lot more achievable. The first goal was always going to be hugely important tonight, and Hull have given themselves a big chance in the tie.
SAVE! Almost an immediate response from United as Ibrahimovic finds himself running at goal with only Dawson in his way. The Hull skipper backs away all the way to the edge of his own box and Ibrahimovic uses him as a screen to curl the ball towards the bottom corner. The striker does everything right, but Marshall gets down well to make a fine save.
United have made a bit of a habit of coming from behind in recent weeks, and it should be noted that they still lead this tie, but they have been very lethargic so far tonight and it is Hull who look most likely to get a second goal on the evidence of this first half.
Hull are camped in the United half at the moment and, the Ibrahimovic effort aside, the visitors have not shown any response to going behind. They could be in trouble if they don't shift up a gear here.
Hull have enjoyed 45% of the ball inside the United third over the last 10 minutes, while just 11% of the play has come in their own third. They are on top here.
There will be a minimum of one minute added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: Hull 1-0 Manchester United (Man Utd lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Jonathan Moss brings an end to the first half at the KCOM Stadium and it is very much game on between Hull City and Manchester United. The Tigers have halved the deficit in this tie and have deservedly taken a 1-0 lead into the halfway stage of this second leg. There is still work to do for the hosts, but they showed enough in that opening 45 minutes to give them plenty of encouragement.
The only goal of the game so far came from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining of the half when Maguire was adjudged to have been pulled to the ground by Rojo. It was a very soft spot kick, given for a hint of a shirt tug, but Moss seemed in no doubt about the decision. Huddlestone duly stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake with a brilliant effort which nestled perfectly into the bottom corner.
United's best chance - indeed only real chance - arrived just a few minutes after they fell behind when Ibrahimovic was allowed to carry the ball to almost the edge of the box, with Dawson backing off all the way. Ibrahimovic attempted to pass his finish into the bottom corner from 20 yards, but Marshall made a brilliant save - his only one of the half - to turn the ball around the post.
The majority of the chances have fallen to Hull, though, and they almost took the lead after 26 minutes when the United defence went to sleep to allow Dawson in behind. His first touch was good, but Smalling made a crucial last-ditch challenge before Niasse's powerful follow-up effort was beaten away by De Gea, who has also kept out a thumping Clucas free kick.
KICKOFF: Manchester United get us back underway for this second half as they look to complete the job and book their place in the EFL Cup final.
United want an early break into the box in this second half and Pogba goes down under the challenge of Dawson, but Jonathan Moss is having none of it. There is a small piece of contact, but Pogba went down too dramatically and the referee is right to shake his head.
United have already shown one or two signs of being more alive in this second half. They have started more brightly and just seem to be a bit sharper all over the pitch.
Hull are still in the difficult position of knowing that a United goal will all but kill the tie off despite their good work so far tonight, so they can't quite go gung-ho just yet. They do need to take some risks though.
PENALTY SHOUT! Jonathan Moss is not endearing himself to United fans tonight! The visitors want a penalty as Smalling finds himself in a very promising position before going to ground under the challenge of Huddlestone. Once again, there was contact, but Smalling made the most of it. Moss is right not to give a penalty, although that was as much of a spot kick as the Hull one.
United are putting some prolonged pressure on Hull for the first time tonight at the moment. The hosts are standing up to the challenge right now, but they made need to weather a bit of a storm over the next 10 minutes or so.
will have something to say about the referee's performance if his side crash out this evening. He was not happy with the decision to wave away Smalling's claims a moment ago and you can be sure he disagrees with the penalty given to Hull too.
HULL SUB: The first change of the evening comes from the hosts, and it is a debut for Liverpool loanee Lazar Markovic, who replaces Bowen.
More pressure from United as Rashford darts away from Meyler into the box and manages to feed the ball into the middle on his way to ground. It is knocked back into the path of Herrera, but his effort from the edge of the box is blocked by Dawson.
Herrera brings down Maloney and is told in no uncertain terms by Jonathan Moss that he will be shown a yellow card for his next foul.
HULL SUB: Another change for the hosts, and it is another January arrival who comes on as Evandro replaces Maloney.
GOAL! Hull 1-1 Manchester United (Paul Pogba)
Out of nothing, United restore their two-goal aggregate advantage and level things up on the night through Paul Pogba. Huddlestone overruns the ball when looking to track Rashford down the left channel and, in his desperation to make up for that he gets a toe to the ball and pokes it back into a dangerous area. Pogba is the quickest to react and pokes his finish into the bottom corner to put his side within touching distance of the final.
The United fans seem confident that they are off to Wembley, and it is hard to argue with them. Hull were very much in the tie at 1-0, but that goal is surely the killer blow for Marco Silva's side.
HULL SUB: A final throw of the dice for Silva here as Abel Hernandez replaces Diomande.
Good footwork from Ibrahimovic as he skips inside Huddlestone to break into the box, but Dawson is across to block the eventual shot behind for a corner.
OFF THE BAR! Almost a second for United as Lingard's corner is met with a towering header from Rojo, but his effort crashes against the crossbar with Marshall beaten.
CHANCE! Chance for Hull at the other end as Hernandez causes problems in the box and the ball eventually falls to Markovic. The winger goes for power with his finish, though, and blazes it well over.
Hull played well in the first half and have applied themselves well in the second too, but the difference has been their lack of attacking threat since the interval. That Markovic shot was their firsts of the second half.
CHANCE! Chance for Hull again as the ball finds Hernandez in the area, but Jones reacts well to get a block on his shot.
OFF THE BAR! The hosts come even closer from the resulting corner as Niasse stoops to meet Evandro pacey corner, only to see his header come back off the crossbar! That's one apiece in terms of hitting the woodwork now.
MAN UTD SUB: Change for the visitors here as Wayne Rooney replaces Lingard.
Hull have not given this one up just yet. They are putting some late pressure on United and a goal within the next couple of minutes could make things very interesting. You feel that Niasse header needed to go in, though.
United think they are in behind here as Pogba receives the ball on the right flank and fizzes a low ball into the box that causes panic in the Hull box, but the linesman's flag is raised.
GOAL! Hull 2-1 Manchester United (Oumar Niasse)
This one is not over yet, folks! Hull give themselves a late glimmer of hope by pulling a goal back and making it 3-2 on aggregate! Markovic pings a fine diagonal ball over to an unmarked Meyler down the right flank, who in turn turns a first-time volleyed cross back across the face of goal. Niasse is there at the back post to convert an easy chance, and suddenly the KCOM Stadium is full of hope again!
YELLOW CARD! Rojo gets a late booking for a heavy challenge on Markovic, and not for the first time this season it looks like a bit of a two-footer. Jonathan Moss deems a yellow card worthy punishment, though.
We're in the final minute of normal time now, and this one is still hanging in the balance. A reminder that one more Hull goal will take us to extra time.
There will be a minimum of three added minutes for Hull to force extra time here.
MAN UTD SUB: A late change from United here as Marouane Fellaini replaces Rashford.
FULL TIME: Hull City 2-1 Manchester United (Manchester United win 3-2 on aggregate)
MANCHESTER UNITED REACH THE FINAL OF THE EFL CUP!
The final whistle blows on the game and Hull City's EFL Cup hopes as they crash out of the competition despite a 2-1 victory over Manchester United that ends the visitors' 17-match unbeaten streak. The Tigers performed admirably on the night but ultimately came up just short as United progress 3-2 on aggregate to set up a showdown with Southampton in February's final. Plenty of positives for Hull to take - not least their first win over United since 1974 - but ultimately it is disappointment for the Tigers.
Right, that is all we have time for this evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for tonight's match as Hull record a famous victory over Manchester United, but do so in vain as the Red Devils progress through to the EFL Cup final on aggregate. I will leave you with our match report
, and be sure to stick around for reaction from both camps. From me, though, it is goodbye for now!