Month: February 2017

Manchester United 3 Southampton 2

26/02/2017 18:20, Report by Gemma Thompson at Wembley

EFL Cup final | 26 February 2017 | Wembley Stadium | Attendance: 85,264 | Scorers: Ibrahimovic 19, 87, Lingard 38; Gabbiadini 45+1, 48

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ultimately the Manchester United hero on another dramatic day at Wembley as Jose Mourinho claimed his first trophy as Reds manager with a thrilling 3-2 EFL Cup final victory over Southampton.

The Swede struck two goals, including the vital winner three minutes from time, to seal a fifth League Cup triumph for United. But it was far from plain sailing for the Reds who were pegged back by the impressive Saints, having gone two goals ahead in the first half thanks to Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard.

Manolo Gabbiadini netted twice for the Saints, but United, in typical fashion, found a way to emerge victorious and win the silverware through Ibrahimovic’s late header.

While Southampton named an unchanged side from their last match two weeks ago, Mourinho made six alterations to the team that won at Saint-Etienne in midweek. In came David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera, Lingard and Anthony Martial for Sergio Romero, Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and the injured Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

It was the Reds who had the first sight of goal when Paul Pogba’s well-struck shot was punched away by Fraser Forster, but it was the Saints who enjoyed the best of the opportunities in the opening period and they would have been ahead but for an offside flag on 11 minutes.

Gabbiadini had the ball in the net after a cross from Cedric from the right, but the flag was up against Ryan Bertrand who was running in behind Gabbiadini and the effort was chalked off.

The Saints continued to look dangerous in attack but an incident at the other end, on 19 minutes, brought the first goal of the game. Oriol Romeu’s foul on Herrera allowed Ibrahimovic to take aim from 25 yards with a sublime free-kick over the wall and past the outstretched arm of Forster.

The goal did little to deter Saints who continued to attack and United had De Gea to thank after two excellent stops from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic.

Chances were less frequent for the Reds but when they came, Mourinho’s men made them count and it was Lingard who utilised some space in the box to double United’s advantage on 38 minutes. After receiving a pass from Rojo, the man who netted in the 2016 FA Cup final and 2017 Community Shield opened up his body and rolled a measured effort into the far corner.

That strike seemed to have put the Reds in complete control, but Gabbiadini gave Claude Puel’s men a lifeline in first-half injury-time. The Saints raided down United’s left flank again and Ward-Prowse’s cross was flicked past De Gea by the Italian.

HALF-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: United 46% Southampton 54%
Shots: United 3 Southampton 5
Shots on target: United 3 Southampton 3
Corners: United 0 Southampton 4

Things got even better for Southampton three minutes after the restart when their Italian striker found the net once more. After De Gea had made another fine stop from Nathan Redmond, the Reds failed to clear a corner and a header back into the box by their captain Steve Davis was pounced on by the Southampton striker who turned on the half-volley and fired home.

The momentum was now with the Saints but Forster almost presented United with a chance to retake the lead when his loose ball fell to Martial who put Zlatan through. Fortunately for the goalkeeper, he was able to race from his line and block at the forward’s feet.

Minutes later Southampton almost went in front as Romeu rose to meet Ward-Prowse’s corner and saw his header come back off the post.

United’s best chance since half-time arrived when a cross into the box dropped to Lingard, but the Reds’ matchwinner last May couldn’t repeat his heroics as his shot flew over the bar.

Lingard was replaced by Marcus Rashford seconds later and the substitute’s low drive was saved by Forster, before Southampton went up the other end. Had it not been for some last-ditch defending and hold-your-breath moments as the ball skipped across the face of goal, the Saints could have won it.

Instead it was left to Ibrahimovic to send United fans into dreamland as the Reds broke forward on 87 minutes with Herrera eventually supplying an inch-perfect cross for the Swede to head home and seal a fifth League Cup triumph for United amid jubilant scenes once again at Wembley.

FULL-TIME STATISTICS
Possession: United 48% Southampton 52%
Shots: United 10 Southampton 12
Shots on target: United 6 Southampton 5
Corners: United 3 Southampton 12

Teams

United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling (c), Rojo; Herrera, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 77), Mata (Carrick 46), Martial (Fellaini 90); Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.

Booked: Herrera, Lingard.

Southampton: Forster, Cedric, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis (c) (Rodriguez 90), Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Boufal 78), Redmond, Gabbiadini (Long 83). Subs not used: Hassen, Caceres, McQueen, Hojbjerg.

Booked: Romeu, Stephens, Redmond.

Manchester United 1 Saint-Etienne 0

22/02/2017 18:52, Report by Adam Marshall

Europa League Round of 32 second leg | Stade Geoffroy-Guichard | Attendance: 41,492 | Scorers: Mkhitaryan 16

Manchester United wrapped up a convincing 4-0 aggregate triumph against Saint-Etienne inside an intimidating Stade Geoffroy-Guichard but the 1-0 win on the night came at a cost.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener left Les Verts needing five goals to progress but the Armenian was replaced soon afterwards with an injury, while Eric Bailly was sent off in the 63rd minute for a second yellow card, moments after Michael Carrick was withdrawn through injury.

The Reds contained the hosts early on and were extremely professional in quelling any initial danger. Not that it quietened the vociferous crowd but Jose Mourinho will have been satisfied his message had been understood as his strong XI showed composure and quality to reach the Europa League last 16.

From the first real attack of any note, after 16 minutes, Mkhitaryan effectively sealed the tie with a top-class finish. A neat build-up saw Juan Mata use Daley Blind’s overlapping run as a decoy and instead drifted inside to guide a lovely cross to the near post. Mkhitaryan did the rest, feathering the ball past Stephane Ruffier with a delicate touch.

Another Mata cross caused problems when Loic Perrin’s clearance hit team-mate Vincent Pajot and forced a diving save out of Ruffier but there was frustration for United when Mkhitaryan was forced off injured in only the 25th minute, with Marcus Rashford taking his place.

Mourinho’s men carved the Saint-Etienne defence open again when Zlatan Ibrahimovic fed Ashley Young but the right-back’s centre flew agonisingly across the face of goal. Les Verts finally started to generate some chances of their own but Bailly blocked a Jordan Veretout shot and Perrin was guilty of directing a free header from a free-kick straight at Sergio Romero.

When referee Deniz Aytekin did not, for once, buy Kevin Malcult’s histrionics in regularly throwing himself to the ground under the slightest pressure, with Rashford using his strength, the substitute set Ibrahimovic up for an opportunity but he fired a powerful effort over the bar. Back came the home side and a combination of Bailly and Romero snuffed out Kevin Monnet-Paquet when he raced towards goal.

HALF-TIME STATS:
Possession: Saint-Etienne 48% United 52%
Shots: Saint-Etienne 4 United 2
On target: Saint-Etienne 1 United 1
Corners: Saint-Etienne 0 United 0

Although Henri Saivet’s volley was blocked, United looked very comfortable after the interval with Romain Hamouma making a hash of a free-kick that summed up the hosts’ night. Marouane Fellaini could have doubled the lead when picked out well by Blind but the combative Belgian only managed to find the side-netting from a promising position.

Paul Pogba’s low drive was held by Ruffier but, after Bastian Schweinsteiger replaced Carrick, there was a real negative for the Reds. Bailly made a second late tackle on Hamouma within the space of three minutes and, a little harshly, was booked on both occasions. The Ivorian’s dismissal means he is suspended for the first leg of the Round of 16, while Marcos Rojo came on for Mata to plug the gap.

Sensing they had nothing to lose, Les Verts opened the game up and both sides began to create more chances. Hamouma had a couple of attempts and the Pogba brothers tried their luck at either end, with Florentin’s hammer drive wide and Paul going close with a header that was hacked away. Rashford was also unlucky after nicking the ball past Ruffier but it rolled off target.

Schweinsteiger, who looked composed in midfield, drifted a curler wide after nice work by Paul Pogba as, an injury-time shot by Jorginho that was repelled by Romero aside, United looked the likelier scorers despite being down to 10 men. Nonetheless, the home crowd kept singing until the bitter end, even though it’s the Reds who march on to the last 16.

FULL-TIME STATS:
Possession: Saint-Etienne 54% United 46%
Shots: Saint-Etienne 14 United 8
Shots on target: Saint-Etienne 2 United 3
Corners: Saint-Etienne 3 United 5 

THE TEAMS:

United: United: Romero; Young, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Carrick (Schweinsteiger 62), Fellaini; Mata (Rojo 64), Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Rashford 25); Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: De Gea, Valencia, Lingard, Martial.

Booked: Bailly.

Sent off: Bailly.

Saint Etienne: Ruffier, Malcuit, Theophile-Catherine, Perrin, Pogba, Veretout (Lemoine 68), Pajot, Hamouma, Saivet (Jorginho 53), Monnet-Paquet, Beric (Roux 59).

Subs not used: Moulin, Lacroix, Pierre-Gabriel, Selnaes.

Booked: Malcuit.

Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 1

19/02/2017 18:11, Report by Jamie Allen

Emirates FA Cup fifth round | Ewood Park | Attendance: 23,130 | Scorers: Rashford 27, Ibrahimovic 75 \ Graham 17

Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench to grab a late winner as Manchester United came from behind to beat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 in the Emirates FA Cup fifth round at Ewood Park.

The Reds fell behind early on to a Danny Graham strike, but responded through Marcus Rashford before the break. Paul Pogba and Ibrahimovic were introduced just after the hour-mark and the pair combined for Ibrahimovic’s winner 15 minutes before the end.

Jose Mourinho continued his rotation policy making seven changes to the side that defeated Saint-Etienne. Sergio Romero retained his place in goal, while Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young, Michael Carrick, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford all came in.

United, who arrived into this tie having won four of the last five matches in all competitions, having kept five clean sheets in the process, controlled the early proceedings in terms of the possession stats. It was Rovers however who had the first strike at goal as Marvin Emnes hit a 25-yard pile driver, which Romero did well to punch away.

That was to be a warning to the United defence, as moments later Emnes turned Rojo on the edge of the box and played in former Swansea striker Graham, who fired high past Romero to give the hosts a shock lead. It was the first goal United had conceded in over 450 minutes of football.

Mourinho’s men should have perhaps been back on level terms six minutes later as Lingard’s cross fell to Ander Herrera inside the box, but he fired straight at Jason Steele, who palmed away.

But the Reds didn’t have to wait long before parity was restored as the magician Mkhitaryan, neatly beat Danny Guthrie in central midfield, before playing an inch-perfect outside of the foot pass for Rashford, who showed his growing maturity, to calmly round Steele and tap home – game on.

Craig Conway had a chance to put Rovers back in front as he latched on to Jason Lowe’s fantastic crossfield switch of play, but fired over from a tight angle as the game continued to ebb and flow.

At the other end Lingard had a chance with a header from a right-wing Young cross, but he failed to connect properly meaning the sides went in level at the break.

HALF-TIME STATS
Possession: Blackburn 33% United 67%
Shots at goal: Blackburn 4 United 7
Shots on target: Blackburn 2 United 2
Corners: Blackburn 1 United 2

Owen Coyle’s men had the first sight at goal in the second half as Conway volleyed at Romero, but unfortunately for the hosts it was straight at United’s stopper.

The Reds continued to dominate possession, but struggled to break down a stubborn Blackburn defence. Mourinho therefore opted for his reinforcements from the bench in the shape of Pogba and Ibrahimovic.

And it was the latter who so nearly had an immediate impact, but he could not reach far enough to tap in Herrera’s cross-cum-shot at the far post.

Ibrahimovic didn’t have to wait too much longer for his chance to grab the headlines again though as Mourinho’s double substitutions proved inspired.

Pogba picked the ball up deep in midfield and found Ibrahimovic with an inch-perfect ball over the top. The Swede did the rest, calmly chesting down before finding the far corner with a typically expert finish – his 24th goal of the season.

Rovers thought they had a late leveller five minutes before the end as substitute Stokes tapped home, but he was stood in an offside position after the ball had fallen to him following a triple save from Romero.

The hosts pushed for a goal which would have meant a replay at Old Trafford, but the Reds held firm and stayed on track for back-to-back FA Cup triumphs and can now look forward to the quarter-finals.

FULL-TIME STATS
Possession: Blackburn 35% United 65%
Shots at goal: Blackburn 8 United 13
Shots on target: Blackburn 6 United 3
Corners: Blackburn 5 United 5

THE TEAMS

Blackburn: Steele; Greer, Lowe, Lenihan, Williams; Feeney (Mahoney 73), Guthrie (Tomlinson), Mulgrew, Conway; Emnes, Graham (Stokes 76).

Subs not used: Raya, Hendrie, Nyambe, Brown.

Booked:
 Williams

United: Romero; Young, Smalling, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Herrera; Lingard (Pogba 62), Mkhitaryan, Martial (Ibrahimovic 62), Rashford (Mata 89).

Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Shaw, Schweinsteiger.

Booked: Lingard, Young.

Manchester United 3 Saint-Etienne 0

Europa League Round of 32 first leg | Old Trafford | Scorers: Ibrahimovic 15, 75, 88 (pen)

Manchester United took a huge step towards the Europa League Round of 16 as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his first hat-trick for the club in a 3-0 win over Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford.

The no.9 claimed the first when his low free-kick deflected in on 15 minutes before tucking home from close range and adding a late penalty to seal the treble, taking his tally to 23 goals in all competitions this season.

It gives Jose Mourinho’s men a firm cushion heading into the Round of 32 second leg next Wednesday at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

In the first of four consecutive cup matches, Mourinho named a strong line-up boasting just two changes from the 2-0 win over Watford last Saturday as Sergio Romero replaced David De Gea in goal and Marouane Fellaini came in for the ill Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Paul Pogba moving into the no.10 role as he faced his older brother and Saint-Etienne defender Florentin.

Backed throughout by vociferous support from their fans, the French visitors – currently fifth in Ligue 1 – had an early chance when Romain Hamouma was clean through on goal but Romero, making his seventh appearance of the season, raced out and did well to close down the angle.

United quickly settled into their rhythm with Fellaini having a goal ruled out after Juan Mata was flagged offside in the build-up, before Anthony Martial went close, the Frenchman’s 20-yard shot forcing Stephane Ruffier to push it clear.

But the Saint-Etienne keeper was wrongfooted as the Reds made the breakthrough on the quarter-hour mark. After being bundled over just outside the box, Ibrahimovic took responsibility for the set-piece and his low free-kick took a huge deflection off Vincent Pajot before slowly trundling over the goal-line.

The goal eased the nerves and was just what United needed, amid a charged atmosphere inside the Theatre of Dreams. It almost got better when Pogba dinked a pass forward to Mata but his volley was well-saved by Ruffier, who also kept out the follow-up.

As the tempo increased, there were chances for both teams with Saint-Etienne’s on-loan Newcastle midfielder Henri Saivet twice firing narrowly wide of the post, before Martial was denied again by the feet of Ruffier, who was fortunate that the rebound inadvertently hit Ibrahimovic and bounced over.

At the other end, Saint-Etienne came on strong before the interval as Hamouma and Jordan Veretout both went close and an entertaining first half drew to a close with the Reds holding a slender advantage.

HALF-TIME MATCH STATS:
Possession: United 66% Saint Etienne 34%
Shots: United 7 Saint Etienne 11
Shots on target: United 5 Saint Etienne 0
Corners: United 1 Saint Etienne 1

United made an alteration at the break as Mourinho turned to the pace of Jesse Lingard, who took the place of Fellaini. After Martial picked up a booking for clashing with Kevin Malciut, the Reds had a second goal ruled out as Ibrahimovic’s header from a fine Mata cross was chalked off for offside.

The hosts had a firm grip of proceedings and looked more of a potent threat in the second period. Pogba and Valencia went close with efforts from outside the box, before Martial was again thwarted by Ruffier after cleverly skipping past two defenders.

But there was a blow for the Reds when Ander Herrera was booked for handball, which rules the Spaniard out of next week’s second leg.

His midfield partner Pogba continued to impress and was inches away from adding to his nine goals this season when his powerful header from a Daley Blind cross six yards out thumped the crossbar.

United introduced Marcus Rashford, who made his 50th appearance for the club, in place of Mata – a year on since he burst onto the scene at this stage of the competition with a brace on his debut against FC Midtjylland.

Saint-Etienne, who didn’t have a shot on target throughout despite causing problems to the United defence, could have snatched an equaliser when substitute Nolan Roux dinked an effort over Romero but it landed on the roof of the net.

The Reds, however, doubled the lead on 75 minutes as Rashford’s cross deflected into the path of Ibrahimovic who slotted home from six yards.

And the striker completed a memorable evening for him personally two minutes from time, picking himself up after being fouled in the box by Kevin Theophile-Catherine before sending Ruffier the wrong way from the spot to have the final say in style.

It meant the Reds’ leading scorer this season continued to be the scurge of the French side, having now scored 17 goals in 14 appearances against St-Etienne.

United had further opportunities to extend the advantage but saw out a fifth successive clean sheet and will take huge confidence heading into next week’s second leg.

FULL-TIME MATCH STATS:
Possession: United 62% Saint Etienne 38%
Shots: United 21 Saint Etienne 14
Shots on target: United 8 Saint Etienne 0
Corners: United 5 Saint Etienne 1

THE TEAMS:

United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling (c), Blind; Herrera, Fellaini (Lingard 45); Mata (Rashford 70), Pogba, Martial (Young 85); Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: De Gea, Darmian, Rojo, Schweinsteiger.

Booked: Martial, Herrera, Lingard, Pogba

Saint Etienne: Ruffier, Theophile-Catherine, Pogba (Beric 79), Perrin (c), Pajot (Selnaes 72), Veretout, Saivet, Hamouma, Malcuit, Monnet-Paquet, Jorginho (Roux 65).

Subs not used: Moulin, Lacroix, Lemoine, Pierre-Gabriel.

Booked: Pajot

Manchester United 2 Watford 0

11/02/2017 16:51, Report by Jamie Allen

Premier League | 11 February 2017 | Old Trafford | Attendance: 75,301 | Scorers: Mata 32, Martial 60.

Manchester United maintained the pressure on the clubs occupying the top four places after a comfortable 2-0 win over Watford at Old Trafford stretched the club’s unbeaten run in the Premier League to 16 games.

A first-half goal from Juan Mata and a second on the hour mark from Anthony Martial was enough to secure the win over Walter Mazzarri’s men. The result meant United became the first team to amass 2,000 all-time Premier League points, and more importantly stayed in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

United boss Jose Mourinho made two changes to the side that comfortably defeated champions Leicester City last Sunday as Daley Blind came in for Marcus Rojo at left-back and Martial replaced Marcus Rashford who was named among the substitutes.

In the first home match after Monday’s 59th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, the United fans unveiled a giant surfer flag bearing the words ‘We’ll never die’ in remembrance while the players donned the traditional black armbands.

United started brightly and after a clever interchange between Antonio Valencia and Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had the chance to volley an effort at goal, but he scuffed his effort. Moments later, Ibrahimovic dropped a little deeper to influence the build-up phase of the Reds’ attack and Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the beneficiary of the Swede’s vision but he fired straight at Gomes from 20 yards.

Watford’s Jose Holebas was the visitors’ outlet on the counter-attack and he unleashed a wicked effort from 30 yards which drifted wide, before Paul Pogba did the same at the other end which Gomes did well to tip round his post.

The chances were coming thick and fast for the Reds though as firstly Mata found the continuously influential Ibrahimovic, who this time had run in behind the Hornets defence, but after brilliantly chesting down inside the box, he volleyed high over the bar.

Pogba then arrived late to meet Valencia’s ball in from the right but Gomes again saved down low before Ander Herrera had two chances to score in quick succession, both from right sided cut-backs from Blind and Mata respectively, but he fired over on both occasions.

The United faithful could not believe their team’s luck as Gomes again came to Watford’s rescue by instinctively saving an Ibrahimovic header from five yards out, but the fans were soon on their feet just seconds later. Martial was set free down the left by Mkhitaryan and the Frenchman pulled the ball back for ‘the special Juan’, Mata, to tap home and give the Reds a richly-deserved lead at the break.

HALF-TIME STATS
Possession: United 64% Watford 36%
Shots at goal: United 12 Watford 3
Shots on target: United 6 Watford 1
Corners: United 2 Watford 0

United were again quick out of the blocks as Martial cut in from the left and shot inches wide of the far post, whilst at the other end, Mauro Zarate’s curling free kick was clawed out of the top corner by David De Gea – the Spaniard’s first real save of the afternoon.

The Reds had to wait until the hour mark for the next clear-cut chance, but it was well worth waiting for as Martial gave United a two-goal cushion after linking up with Ibrahimovic and cutely wrong-footing Gomes with a neat near-post finish.

Ibrahimovic so nearly got his reward from a fine unselfish display after Mkhitaryan found him free on the edge of the area, but his effort deflected wide.

Watford’s best chance of the game, and one they really needed to take if they wanted to give themselves any chance of salvaging anything, fell to substitute Daryl Janmaat who should have tapped home M’Baye Niang’s far post cross, but he wastefully missed the target.

Troy Deeney then beat Valencia in the box, but could not find a way past De Gea who punched his effort away, whilst Mkhitaryan had a chance to wrap up the game for good, but he could not overcome Gomes who saved with his legs.

After a goal and an assist, Martial went off to a standing ovation and his replacement Rashford was involved in the move which so nearly allowed Ibrahimovic the chance to meet Mkhitaryan’s cross, but the no.9 missed his kick late on.

That and other spurned opportunities really didn’t matter however as the Reds’ imperious league run continued with this victory. It was the perfect way for Mourinho’s men to sign off from the race for now and embark on a run of four cup matches in three competitions, starting with the Europa League Round-of-32 tie at home to Saint-Etienne on Thursday.

FULL-TIME STATS
Possession: United 58% Watford 42%
Shots at goal: United 22 Watford 9
Shots on target: United 11 Watford 3
Corners: United 5 Watford 1

THE TEAMS

United:
De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling (c), Blind; Herrera, Pogba; Mata (Fellaini 72), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 89), Martial (Rashford 80); Ibrahimovic.  Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Carrick, Rooney.

Booked: Valencia.

Watford: Gomes; Cathcart (Success 83), Kaboul, Prodl, Britos (Janmaat 45); Cleverley, Capoue; Niang, Zarate (Okaka 74), Holebas; Deeney (c).

Subs not used: Arlauskis, Mariappa, Behrami, Doucoure.

Manchester United 3 Leicester City 0

05/02/2017 17:50, Report by Adam Higgins

Premier League | King Power Stadium | Attendance: 32,072 | Scorers: Mkhitaryan 42, Ibrahimovic 44, Mata 49

Manchester United took full advantage of some favourable Premier League results to close the gap on the teams at the top thanks to a convincing 3-0 victory over champions Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s excellent solo goal and a composed finish from top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the space of two minutes towards the end of the first half gave the Reds a comfortable cushion at the break.

The impressive Juan Mata added a third early in the second period as Jose Mourinho’s men ended a run of three successive draws with a deserved third win of the season over the goal-shy Foxes.

Mourinho made three changes to the side frustrated by Hull on Wednesday night as Chris Smalling came in for the injured Phil Jones and was captain in the absence of the ill Wayne Rooney. He played alongside Eric Bailly, who appeared for the first time for the senior side in 2017, while Mata came into midfield, with Daley Blind and Michael Carrick dropping to the bench.

Amid a vibrant atmosphere in the East Midlands, United were first to threaten when Marcos Rojo, who switched to left-back following Bailly’s return, latched onto Ibrahimovic’s flick and lashed a fierce shot straight at Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel in the fifth minute.

With Marcus Rashford operating from a central position, the Reds enjoyed plenty of early possession but Leicester worked their way into the game and came close when Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick was helped on by Jamie Vardy and captain Wes Morgan’s header deflected behind off Paul Pogba.

Moments later, the Foxes launched an attack down the left flank with Vardy releasing Ahmed Musa but the Nigerian was thwarted in his tracks by brilliant last-ditch defending from Bailly, whose well-timed tackle diverted the ball for a corner.

At the other end, United went close again when Mata linked up well with Mkhitaryan and delivered a low cross for Rashford, who couldn’t keep his effort down although the ball took an awkward bounce in front of him.

The England frontman did manage to bring Schmeichel into action soon after with an intelligent low shot, which would have crept into the bottom corner without the keeper’s smart reactions.

Indeed, the Reds ended the first half the stronger and made the breakthrough three minutes before the break when Mkhitaryan latched onto Smalling’s knockdown, raced away from Robert Huth and ran the full length of the Leicester half before calmly rifling beyond the reach of Schmeichel.

No sooner had the 3,200 travelling United fans inside the stadium finished celebrating, it got even better just over a minute later when Valencia accelerated down the right and delivered an inch-perfect cutback for Ibrahimovic to slam home his 20th goal of the season.

David De Gea preserved the two-goal cushion in stoppage time with a comfortable save – his first of the afternoon – from Wilfred Ndidi’s 20-yard effort but the Reds were firmly in the driving seat at the break.

HALF-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: Leicester 33% United 67%
Shots: Leicester 4 United 8
On target: Leicester 1 United 5
Corners: Leicester 3 United 2

A rejuvenated United, who introduced Blind for Rojo at the start of the second half, immediately went on the attack and increased the advantage just four minutes after the restart.

Mata, a scorer against the Foxes in September’s 4-1 victory at Old Trafford, checked inside of Christian Fuchs and cleverly exchanged passes with Mkhitaryan inside the box before coolly slotting past Schmeichel to all but seal the three points.

The dominant Reds looked increasingly threatening and in the mood for inflicting further damage against the beleaguered Foxes, who are hovering perilously close to the relegation zone just months after securing a historic first-ever top-flight title.

Rashford was denied by Schmeichel at the near post after being released by Herrera, before Mata timed his run well to latch onto Blind’s raking pass forward but couldn’t find the finish on this occasion to get the better of the Danish stopper.

With a firm grip on proceedings, United sent on Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young in place of Mata and Rashford during the closing stages and continued to control the game in a professional manner.

Mkhitaryan could have added to his fifth goal of the season late on but fired Valencia’s cutback over the crossbar from inside the box.

it mattered little though as the three points had long been secured by the Reds, who returned to winning ways in some style and are now unbeaten in seven away league games.

FULL-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: Leicester 33% United 67%
Shots: Leicester 10 United 15
On target: Leicester 1 United 9
Corners: Leicester 10 United 3

THE TEAMS:

Leicester: Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan (c), Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Musa (Gray 45); Okazaki (King 45), Vardy.

Subs not used: Zieler, Benalouane, Chilwell, Kapustka, Albrighton.

Booked: Drinkwater, Fuchs

United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling (c), Bailly, Rojo (Blind 45); Pogba, Herrera; Mata (Fellaini 77), Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: Romero, Young, Carrick, Lingard, Martial.

Booked: Mata, Herrera, Pogba, De Gea

Manchester United 0 Hull City 0

01/02/2017 21:50, Report by Adam Higgins

Premier League | Old Trafford

Manchester United were held to a hugely frustrating goalless draw at Old Trafford on Wednesday night as Hull City ground out a point to aid their cause at the bottom of the Premier League.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Marcos Rojo all brought fine saves from Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who was in inspired form between the posts for the visitors.

But despite dominating proceedings, it wasn’t to be United’s night as Jose Mourinho’s men could not find a way past the resolute Tigers, failing to score for the first time in 20 matches.

For the second successive game, Mourinho made nine changes as the boss restored several first-team regulars to a strong line-up, with Rojo and Henrikh Mkhitaryan the only survivors from the side which beat Wigan 4-0 on Sunday to reach the FA Cup fifth round.

The Reds started positively and, as early as the second minute, Mkhitaryan was released in behind by an intelligent Ander Herrera pass but Hull defender Andy Robertson poked the ball to safety before the Armenian could get a shot away.

The first real chance of the night, however, came the way of the visitors in the eighth minute when Harry Maguire, up from the back, got free to head inches wide of the post from a David Meyler free-kick.

The Reds were then inches away from the breakthrough on the quarter-hour mark as top scorer Ibrahimovic unleashed a stunning 25-yard effort which was tipped wide by Jakupovic before Rojo flashed a header over after Rashford’s flick kept a Mkhitaryan corner alive.

Daley Blind sent an ambitious volley over the crossbar from the edge of the box after excellent build-up play involving Herrera and Antonio Valencia, whose cross from the right flank was initially cleared by Sam Clucas.

The teams’ third meeting in 23 days proved to be just as tight as their two-legged EFL Cup semi-final, with United finding the stubborn Tigers a tough nut to crack once more.

Ibrahimovic got on the end of a neat Paul Pogba lay-off but his low shot trickled through to Jakupovic, who moments later produced a fine near-post save to deny Pogba as the Reds were left frustrated at the interval.

HALF-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: United 66% Hull 34%
Shots: United 7 Hull 4
Shots on target: United 3 Hull 1
Corners: United 4 Hull 1

Mourinho turned to the array of attacking talent on the United bench at half-time in a bid to change the game as captain Wayne Rooney replaced Michael Carrick, who had worn the armband in the first period.

Roared on by the home crowd, the Reds continued to probe patiently and went close when Rashford’s tame effort rolled agonisingly wide of the far post after the forward beautifully controlled Pogba’s pass which got him in behind the Hull backline. Ibrahimovic then screwed an effort wide on the turn after Rashford’s knockdown into the danger area from Valencia’s deep cross.

The Reds, who lost Phil Jones to an apparent injury minutes earlier, introduced Juan Mata in place of Mkhitaryan just after the hour mark and the Spaniard soon had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock. Fellow substitute Chris Smalling’s header across the face of goal from Herrera’s delivery found Mata unmarked at the back post but he was somehow thwarted by a remarkable save from Jakupovic on the line.

The visitors from East Yorkshire appeared to escape again when Ibrahimovic appeared to be bundled over in the penalty area by Tom Huddlestone but, despite United’s vociferous appeals for a penalty, referee Mike Jones decided the striker was guilty of handball.

Despite piling on the pressure, the Reds found clear-cut chances hard to come by as Hull stayed firm. Indeed, Marco Silva’s side almost stole all three points late on when on-loan Liverpool midfielder Lazar Markovic’s fierce effort rebounded back off David De Gea’s left-hand post with five minutes remaining before substitute Abel Hernandez found himself clean through on goal but he could only strike straight at De Gea.

At the other end, Rojo’s looping header and a curling effort from Pogba were kept out by Jakupovic as the Reds pushed hard for a winner during five minutes of stoppage time but Hull held out for a point.

The Reds return to action on Sunday afternoon with a trip to the King Power Stadium to face faltering champions Leicester City (KO 16:00 GMT).

FULL-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession: United 67% Hull 33%
Shots: United 15 Hull 6
Shots on target: United 6 Hull 2
Corners: United 7 Hull 1

THE TEAMS:

United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones (Smalling 55), Rojo, Blind; Carrick (c) (Rooney 45), Herrera; Mkhitaryan (Mata 61), Pogba, Rashford; Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: Romero, Young, Lingard, Martial.

Booked: Rooney

Hull: Jakupovic; Meyler, Dawson (c), Maguire, Robertson; Clucas, Huddlestone; Markovic, Evandro (Elabdellaoui 72), Tymon (Ranocchia 66); Niasse (Hernandez 69).

Subs not used: Marshall, Maloney, Bowen, Diomande.

Booked: Niasse, Clucas, Markovic, Meyler