Manchester United inched a step closer to reaching the final of the EFL Cup as goals from Juan Mata and substitute Marouane Fellaini gave the Reds a comfortable 2-0 victory over Hull City in the first leg of the semi-final.
A near full-strength United side failed to break down resilient Hull in a first half in which the hosts saw efforts from Mata and Paul Pogba saved by goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.
However, Jose Mourinho’s side improved in the second-half and were rightly awarded with a goal as Mata poked home from close range in the 55th minute.
After Pogba had earlier struck a post with a free-kick, substitute Fellaini gave the hosts a two-goal cushion with a header late on from a Matteo Darmian cross.
"Maybe I didn't prepare the team right. I didn't give them enough intensity, and we had to change that at half-time. Maybe I should pay more attention to the dynamic of the game.
"We have to improve for Sunday. Today our performance was enough to win, but Sunday we all have to improve, ‘’stated Man United boss Jose Mourinho.
With Hull bottom of the Premier League and struggling badly with injuries, a first Tigers victory in 65 years at Old Trafford seemed improbable.
And they were dealt a further blow when midfielder Markus Henriksen went off injured inside 20 minutes.
But since new manager Marco Silva took charge last week, Hull look much improved. They beat Swansea in the FA Cup at the weekend and kept in-form United at bay for long periods of the game despite having to field a makeshift defence.
"There's only been four training sessions with me and with many, many things to change, I'm happy with the work my players did during this game," Hull manager Marco Silva said.
With the comfort of a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg at the KCOM Stadium on January 26, the Reds will be confident of progressing to Wembley to face either Southampton or Liverpool next month.