MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho moved a step closer to a major trophy in his first season as Manchester United manager as goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini secured a first-leg victory over Hull City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup.
A near full-strength United struggled to break down resilient Hull in a first half in which the hosts had just two shots on target - Mata forcing a good save out of goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who also tipped over Paul Pogba's long-range effort.
The visitors had chances of their own against a side who had won their eight previous games in all competitions, Robert Snodgrass causing problems from set-pieces.
However, Mata got the breakthrough just before the hour mark when he tapped in from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's knockdown.
Substitute Fellaini scored a second late on, heading in from Matteo Darmian's cross to put United in command heading into the second leg on 26 January.
Serious business for Mourinho
The League Cup represents a genuine opportunity for Mourinho to claim a major trophy to add to the Community Shield collected last summer.
He has named strong sides throughout the competition and it was no different against Hull as several first-team regulars, including Wayne Rooney, Pogba and David de Gea, started.
With Hull bottom of the Premier League and struggling badly with injuries - they could only name six substitutes - a first Tigers victory in 65 years at Old Trafford seemed unlikely.
They were given odds of 20-1 to win before kick-off and their prospects looked even more bleak when midfielder Markus Henriksen went off injured inside 20 minutes.