Same result, different game. Manchester United have now notched up nine Premier League draws and will rue the chances missed that would have closed the gap on the top four. With Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal all dropping points yesterday – United had a superb opportunity to make up the ground, having dropped points from winning positions against the likes of Arsenal, Stoke City and Everton, which wasn’t taken.
Paul Pogba had United’s best chance in the first half, having been beautifully put through by Zlatan Ibrahimovic – however, United’s number six smashed the ball straight at man of the match Eldin Jakupović in the Hull City goal. Substitute Juan Mata missed a glorious second half opportunity to give United the lead, following a good header from Chris Smalling – however, the Spaniard struck his shot straight at Jakupović. The visitors defended vigorously – with Harry Maguire and Michael Dawson marshalling Ibrahimovic well. Marco Silva’s men could have won the game after on loan winger Lazar Marković struck David De Gea’s post late on in the match.
United have now drawn the last three games and any faint title hopes are surely gone with a return to the slow pedestrian football, in the first half, that was so common under the guidance of Louis van Gaal.
United were far too slow in the first half and didn’t cause the visitors any problems, until Pogba’s chance five minutes before half time. Mourinho started with his usual 4-3-3 formation, with Michael Carrick sitting in the midfield behind Pogba and Ander Herrera. The United faithful were looking forward in seeing Marcus Rashford in action on the left hand side, his first start since the 1-1 draw with West Ham United back in November. Sadly, it wasn’t the youngster’s best night and he was guilty of giving the ball away far too often with wayward passes or backheels that simply didn’t come off. He had a superb opportunity to take on make shift right back David Meyler – however, he rarely got the better of his opponent. Henrikh Mkhitarayan was also ineffective on the right hand side and struggled to impose himself on the game and was withdrawn on sixty-two minutes.
Too many United players were below par as Hull City stood strong, deploying a six man defence at times with Meyler and the impressive Andrew Robertson closing the gap between the centres halves and pulling wide men Markovic and 17 year old Josh Tymon back to halt the overlapping Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind. The home side found it tough to break down Silva’s well organised side – however, due to United’s slow pace – the visitors found it easy to keep their shape and allow deep lying playmaker Tom Huddlestone time on the ball to distribute play. Maguire was impressive in his reading of the game and time and time again stepped in front of Ibrahimovic to intercept the ball and start a counter attack. Until Pogba had his chance, Hull were quite comfortable. The second half needed an improvement from Mourinho’s side.
The Portuguese opted to withdraw Carrick for Wayne Rooney, as he had done against Liverpool – although this time around was due to a lack of creativity further up the pitch as opposed to United’s number 16 struggling to cope with the away side’s press. The more attack minded United picked up the pace and were a lot more dangerous in the second half, however the front three were well below their normal high standards and failed to make any significant impact on the match. Valencia provided width on the right hand side and the introduction of Mata allowed the full back to push on even more as the Spaniard went looking for space inside. Phil Jones, who suffered a hamstring injury but should be back in a few days, was replaced by Chris Smalling – who nearly setup Mata for the opener – but United’s number eight shot poorly straight at the keeper.
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It was United’s best chance and although Jakupović made another good stop from a curling right footed effort from Pogba, Mata will surely be ruing his missed chances against Stoke and now Hull City in recent weeks. Abel Hernandez replaced Oumar Niasse – who was lucky to still be on the pitch following two poor tackles that should have resulted in a yellow card for the already booked player – and the Uruguayan had a glorious opportunity to win the match right at the end, but a poor header allowed Herrera to get back and hold the forward up – who tamely shot at De Gea’s goal. Hull would have been delighted with a point before the match and could well have come away with all three had Marković and Hernandez taken their chances.
It is a similar story for Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side who are now winless in the last three league games. Chances missed, a slow pedestrian pace and falling behind the top four. Title aspirations may be on hold until the new season, but it is essential that this trend is reversed and the twenty times English champions secure a top four spot in May and build on the much better performances than what was on showing from last term. Hull City defended for their lives and were well worth their point as Marco Silva dealt with everything that was thrown at his side.