Zlatan misses out due to illness, but Manchester United don’t need him as they see off a spirited Hull City in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final tie.
Manchester United 2 Hull 0
United closed in on a February trip to Wembley courtesy of goals from Juan Mata (7.2) and substitute Marouane Fellaini (5.8).
The Spaniard is a frequently chosen one by Mourinho these days and yet his good form – he’s scored or assisted for four consecutive matches – is not apparent in the 2.4% ownership figures.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (9.0) set Mata up before Fellaini probably put the tie out of Hull’s reach from a Matteo Darmian (5.0) assist.
Mourinho’s squad is sufficiently strong that he can sell Morgan Schneiderlin (4.6), leave Michael Carrick (4.3) on the bench and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11.6) out of the squad altogether and still field a well-balanced side.
The Swede’s surprise absence was put down to illness, which, if not serious, was a timely one as United prepare for a highly significant match with Liverpool on Sunday.
His coach certainly seemed relaxed about it all – much to the relief of Ibrahimovic’s 43.3% ownership – when he spoke post-match.
“Zlatan is ill so I think no problem, I think he will be fine.”
Mourinho also gave the latest on Marcos Rojo (5.2) returning for the Liverpool clash.
“I don’t know [if Rojo will be fit]. Marcos has a muscular problem, not big. I’m not saying he’s not ready to play, I’m saying that I have my doubts.”
Marcus Rashford (6.4) replaced Ibrahimovic as the lone striker but failed to shine, leaving others to test the excellent Eldin Jakupovic (3.9) in the visitors’ goal.
The bargain basement keeper has remained in 19.0% of Fantasy squads despite seeing no league action since Gameweek 5. Under new boss Marco Silva he’s started the last two matches, although both have been cup ties.
If he is to return to the Fantasy radar, however, it will most likely be for save points alone. Much of Hull’s midfield is currently playing in an injury-hit defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet in 18 Gameweeks and after a home match with Bournemouth at the weekend, the Tigers must face Chelsea, United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Silva was able to welcome back Harry Maguire to his backline but still has doubts over Michael Dawson (4.4) and Curtis Davies (4.9) ahead of the Cherries meeting. Elsewhere, midfielder Markus Henriksen (4.9) is almost certain to miss the Gameweek 21 meeting after he suffered a shoulder injury in Tuesday’s tie.
Two goals should be enough to take to the KCOM Stadium, allowing Mourinho to rotate ahead of the second leg, which falls between a Gameweek 22 trip to Stoke and the FA Cup fourth round tie with Wigan.
Silva will be hoping to have added to a desperately thin squad by then, with Everton striker Oumar Niasse (5.6) reportedly close to joining them on loan until the end of the season.
Essentially, the result means that United now have one foot in the final, which will take place on February 26 – or Gameweek 26, to you and me.
Should the Old Trafford outfit progress to the Wembley showdown, it is near-certain that they would then face a blank Gameweek 26 – this is all the more significant when you consider they are currently scheduled to face neighbours Manchester City in the league that weekend.
Clearly, such a scenario would have repercussions for those holding both Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero (12.8), forcing us to freshen up our three-man frontlines, with both Manchester sides then afforded a double Gameweek apiece somewhere down the line.
Manchester United XI: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Darmian, Herrera, Pogba, Mata (Fellaini 79), Rooney (Martial 59), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 71), Rashford.
Subs not used: Romero, Carrick, Blind, Fosu-Mensah, .
Hull City XI: Jakupovic, Huddlestone, Maguire, Robertson, Meyler, Mason, Clucas, Tymon (Weir 90+1), Snodgrass, Henriksen (Hernández 19), Diomande (Maloney 74).
Subs not used: Marshall, Bowen, Clackstone.