Man Utd scrapes into cup final despite loss
JOSE Mourinho refused to accept defeat as Manchester United crept into the EFL Cup final at the expense of a spirited Hull City.
United edged to a 3-2 aggregate win after losing 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium, meaning Mourinho suffered his first League Cup defeat in normal time in 28 matches.
Goals from Tom Huddlestone and Oumar Niasse came either side of Paul Pogba's strike to give the hosts a first win over the Red Devils since 1974.
It also ended United's 17-match unbeaten run but the controversial nature of Hull's opening goal prompted Mourinho to call it a draw.
Hull was awarded a penalty by referee Jon Moss after Harry Maguire tumbled in the penalty area while being marked by Marcos Rojo. United protested vehemently but replays showed Rojo pulling Maguire's shirt.
"I think 18 matches undefeated is amazing," Mourinho said. "We didn't lose. It was 1-1. I only saw two goals. I saw Pogba's goal and their goal. Fantastic goal, great action, great cross and the guy at the far post. 1-1."
Mourinho and his players confronted Moss at half-time to continue to debate his decision but they barely had cause for sour grapes. The Portuguese will have the opportunity to win a fourth league cup when his side faces Southampton on February 26.
Mourinho said the game was "in the pocket" and "under control" but that assessment does Hull a disservice.
The Tigers, 19th in the Premier League, were unfortunate to lose the first leg 2-0 and were deserved winners of the second on home turf, despite United being at full strength and Marco Silva, the Hull head coach, opting to make seven changes to his side.
Mourinho's team was pedestrian for much of the match and Hull, full of zest and enterprise, took advantage.
The break the hosts craved came 10 minutes before half-time with the award of the penalty but, even after that, Silva's side shone.
It took a slice of fortune in United's favour for the visitors to level.
Huddlestone, tracking back, prodded the ball away from Rashford and straight into the path of Pogba, who poked the ball low beyond David Marshall. It felt cruel on Hull but it kept going.
Both sides hit the bar with headers - Marcos Rojo for United and Oumar Niasse for Hull - and the hosts gave themselves renewed hope of forcing extra-time when Niasse made it 2-1 with five minutes to go.
Lazar Markovic spread the play out to David Meyler, whose cross was met by Niasse at the back post.
It was a winner for Hull, no matter what Mourinho says. The Tigers had won the battle but lost the war.
"We've had a very good performance and it's a very good win for us," said Silva, who took over from Mike Phelan three weeks ago.
"It wasn't enough to achieve our goal but surely it will give confidence to our players.
"It was a good performance again, a good attitude and we controlled the game in large periods against a big team. It is impossible at this moment to feel really happy.
"When I came here it was no wins in two months but now in five games we have won three. Two of them have been against Manchester United and one against Chelsea. That should give confidence to all of us. I congratulated the players in the dressing room."
Mourinho began each of his spells at Chelsea with League Cup triumphs and followed them by picking up bigger prizes.
United will hope it is a recurring theme.