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Preview: Hull City vs. Manchester United

Sports Mole previews the EFL Cup semi-final second leg between Hull City and Manchester United at the KCOM Stadium.

The final of the EFL Cup is just 90 minutes away for either Hull City or Manchester United as they gear up for the second leg of their semi-final at the KCOM Stadium on Thursday.

United are the heavy favourites to progress to Wembley courtesy of their 2-0 triumph in the first leg, but Hull have improved under new boss Marco Silva and will not have given up hope just yet.


Hull City manager Marco Silva watches on during the Premier League clash with Bournemouth at the KCOM Stadium on January 14, 2017© SilverHub

Despite being so close to reaching a Wembley final, Hull players could be forgiven if this match was the last thing on their minds right now.

A 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday was overshadowed by Ryan Mason suffering a fractured skull in a clash of heads with Gary Cahill, and the 25-year-old remains in hospital after undergoing surgery on the problem.

Updates on his situation have so far been positive, though, and if the prospect of reaching the EFL Cup final wasn't motivation enough, overturning the two-goal deficit on Thursday night would be a perfect tribute for the midfielder.

The odds are certainly stacked against the Tigers, but their improvement since Silva's arrival has been clear to see with two wins from four games and their only defeats coming at the hands of United and Chelsea.

Both of those defeats came away from home too, and Silva still boasts a 100% record at the KCOM Stadium with two wins from two. Indeed, Hull have only been beaten once in their last eight home games across all competitions - a run which stretches back to October.

Of course, the priority for Hull remains Premier League survival, with Sunday's defeat to Chelsea leaving them 19th in the table and two points from safety, and things don't get much easier in the coming weeks with United, Liverpool and Arsenal providing the opposition in their next three league games.

However, an EFL Cup final is unlikely to act as much of a distraction at this stage of the season and the players will know that they will be on the brink of history if they are able to complete the turnaround against United.

It is already Hull's best performance in the League Cup, and the most notable piece of silverware in their trophy cabinet remains the Third Division title from 1965-66. Having come so close to winning the FA Cup in 2014 too, they will be particularly eager not to let this one slip away.

It is a big ask for the Tigers, but they haven't lost a home League Cup match since August 2011, winning six in a row during that time - although three of those triumphs came on penalties. They have also failed to score more than one goal in a home League Cup game since August 2009, which is a run they will need to break if they are to reach the final.

Recent form: WWWWL
Recent form (all competitions): DLWLWL

Manchester United

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho watches on during the Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017© SilverHub

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will know exactly what Silva and the Hull players are going through regarding Mason's injury, having been in charge of Chelsea when Petr Cech sustained a fractured skull following a challenge from Stephen Hunt in 2006.

Cech's recovery from that injury could act as cause for optimism when it comes to Mason's own plight, and Mourinho should be able to offer words of encouragement to the opposition on Thursday night.

While there is sure to be sympathy from the United boss, though, he will be under no illusions that his side still have a job to do if they are to make a fourth trip to Wembley in the space of nine months.

Mourinho has already picked up the Community Shield during his time in charge of United, and the prospect of making it two trophies from a possible two will be appealing to a man who also got his Chelsea career underway by winning this competition 12 years ago.

Coupled with the FA Cup success under Louis van Gaal last season, the silverware is beginning to return to United following a barren couple of years after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, and the Scot himself declared that the club are once again moving in the right direction under Mourinho.

There is, of course, still some way to go to restore United to their former glories - they currently sit sixth in the table and are 14 points adrift of leaders Chelsea, after all - but they are unbeaten in 17 matches across all competitions since the beginning of December and have shown flickers of some of Ferguson's old trademarks along the way.

Most notable of all has been their late goals, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic rescuing a point against Liverpool earlier this month before Wayne Rooney wrote his name into the history books with his 250th goal for the club against Stoke City at the weekend.

While draws do not do much good for United in their current league position, it would be a satisfactory result on Thursday as they bid to reach their first final in this competition since lifting the trophy for a fourth time in 2010.

It is seven matches since United last lost on the road, and you have to go back to October for the last away game they lost by a margin big enough to see them eliminated on Thursday, so Mourinho's side find themselves in a commanding position heading to the KCOM Stadium.

Recent form: WWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWDD

Team News

Ryan Mason in action for Hull City on October 1, 2016© SilverHub

Hull were only able to name six players on the bench for the first leg earlier this month, and their injury crisis has barely eased since then.

Mason's future career remains in doubt following his fractured skull, while Will Keane, Markus Henriksen and Moses Odubajo all remain long-term absentees as well.

Alex Bruce is nearing a return and could be involved in the squad on Thursday, but doubts still remain over Robert Snodgrass and Curtis Davies, while Dieumerci Mbokani and Ahmed Elmohamady are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

There could be a full debut for Oumar Niasse up front after fellow January arrivals Evandro and Omar Elabdellaoui made their first starts for the club against Chelsea at the weekend.

United, meanwhile, are still expected to be without Eric Bailly despite Ivory Coast's early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, but Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw have both returned to training and could feature.

Mourinho is expected to make changes to his side, with the likes of Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Michael Carrick and Jesse Lingard all pushing for a recall to the starting XI.

Ibrahimovic missed the first leg but could keep his place in the side given that he is more likely to be rested during Sunday's FA Cup clash with Wigan Athletic.

Hull possible starting lineup:
Jakupovic; Elabdellaoui, Maguire, Dawson, Robertson; Huddlestone, Meyler, Evandro, Clucas, Tymon; Niasse

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Rojo, Jones, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Pogba, Rooney, Rashford; Ibrahimovic

Head To Head

Unsurprisingly, United have dominated this fixture down the years, winning 12 and losing none of the last 13 meetings between the two sides in all competitions - an unbeaten run that stretches back to 1974.

Hull have only ever won five of their 30 matches against United, but four of those victories have come on home soil. The Tigers have lost all three of their previous League Cup meetings without scoring a single goal, though, conceding eight in the process.

This will be the third time that they have met this season, with Rashford grabbing a late Premier League winner at the KCOM Stadium in August before Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini built United's 2-0 lead in the first leg of this tie.

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We say: Hull 0-1 Manchester United

Hull have certainly improved since the arrival of Silva and teams rarely find it easy against the Tigers anymore, but United are in decent form themselves and have the luxury of not having to chase the game. The result could rest on how Hull start the match as an early goal for the hosts would give them a valuable lifeline, while an early one for United would kill the tie off.

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho watches on during the Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017
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