'No cold Trafford for visit of Reds'

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata (left) taps in the opener during the first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Hull City in the 56th minute.
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata (left) taps in the opener during the first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Hull City in the 56th minute. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Mourinho challenges fans to create a raucous atmosphere when United host Liverpool

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has warned that Manchester United risk losing to Liverpool on Sunday unless the players and fans up their game.

The United manager was not in a celebratory mood after on Tuesday despite his team recording their ninth successive win in all competitions. Goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini ensured a 2-0 win over Hull City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.

The Portuguese lashed out at his players for a sub-par performance and the supporters, who he feels were responsible for the quiet atmosphere inside Old Trafford.

Mourinho believes that his team struggle when the stadium is flat and has called on the fans to increase the volume when foes Liverpool, who sit five points above United in second place in the Premier League table, visit this weekend.

"On Sunday, I need to be better, the players have to be better, and the stadium has to be better," he said. "We have absolutely amazing fans, fans who push us and get behind us, but Sunday is a special match for us, a special match for the United fans, so my invitation is not to come to the theatre - but come to play with us."

  • Man United v Hull: Talking points

  • CAN'T DO WITHOUT MATA

    Juan Mata's future at Old Trafford was thrown into question following Jose Mourinho's arrival, but the former Chelsea boss cannot do without the midfielder he sold to United in 2014 for £37.1 million (S$64.68 million). Mata excelled again , setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a good opportunity and then showing a glimpse of his predatory side for United's opener, drifting beyond his marker to tap in.

    FRIENDS UNITED IN DEFENCE

    Mourinho started with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at centre-back for the first time in his reign. The friends had no problems dealing with Hull. Smalling enjoyed success after success coming up against Adama Diomande in aerial duels. Jones impressed in the air and with the ball at his feet, too.

    ROONEY DOESN'T FIT IN

    Mourinho again opted against his favoured 4-3-3 formation, partly to fit Wayne Rooney into his team following Rooney's club record-equalling exploits against Reading.

    Mourinho clearly feels that Rooney is not able to lead the line for United, so he kept the captain in the No. 10 position in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The unfortunate consequence of playing this system is that Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera started deeper, hindering their effectiveness.

  • THE TIMES, LONDON

He took responsibility for failing to inject enough vigour into his team before they took to the field on Tuesday.

"Maybe I didn't prepare the team right," said the manager, who made seven changes to his starting XI from the 4-0 FA Cup third round win over Reading on Saturday.

"I didn't give them enough intensity, and we had to change that at half-time. Maybe I should pay more attention to the dynamics of the game. Today our performance was enough to win, but Sunday we all have to improve."

United struggled to break down a Hull team so ravaged by injuries that they had two midfielders in defence and could name only six substitutes. Mata put United ahead with a tap-in at the back post from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's knock-down on 56 minutes before substitute Fellaini headed in Matteo Darmian's cross with three minutes left.

The result means United have recorded their longest winning run since early 2009, when Alex Ferguson's side claimed 11 consecutive victories.

Mourinho retained Wayne Rooney in his starting XI after Zlatan Ibrahimovic fell ill, but the captain could not score the goal to break the club scoring record he shares with Bobby Charlton.

Ibrahimovic is expected to be fit for Sunday's game, meaning that Rooney could drop to the bench.

United supporters booed Fellaini when he came off the bench against Tottenham Hotspur last month, but the Belgium midfielder felt warmth from them and his boss last night after his first goal under Mourinho.

"It was nice for him to score," Mourinho said. "I think he hugged me because I told him he was going to score the second and I think he wanted to show that he knows how much I supported him in a couple of difficult moments for him."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline ''No cold Trafford for visit of Reds''. Print Edition | Subscribe