Manchester United to face Hull after overwhelming West Ham
Bastian Schweinsteiger returned from his United exile with a late substitute appearance
Manchester United’s Bastian Schweinsteiger in action against West Ham. Photograph: Getty Images
Manchester United 4 West Ham United 1
Manchester United swept into the EFL Cup semi-finals with the kind of buccaneering display missing from their recent history. This was fast and ruthless and surely had José Mourinho beaming from his office, where he served his one-match touchline ban. The Portuguese’s side were unstoppable and the hope will be this proves the moment it all clicked for him and his players on an evening when the tone was set from the opening moment.
At last United had the kind of flying start they had allowed West Ham here on Sunday and previously granted Fenerbahce and Chelsea, as they gained the lead within two minutes of kick-off. Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were the creators as the captain fashioned a slick swivel-and-pass to the Armenian, who then played a sweet left-foot back-heel into Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s path and the Swede dinked a superb finish over the onrushing Adrián.
The goalkeeper cleaned the No9 out as he scored, though within a few moments the 35-year-old was on his feet and Adrián escaped any sanction from Mike Jones, the referee.
The Hammers were fortunate to avoid going two behind after a similar United move. Rooney again drifted deep in classic No10 manner and took over. This time the pass that sliced the visitors up found Ibrahimovic: twice he blazed at Adrián and twice it was repelled, and when the ball came to Anthony Martial at close quarters he managed a prolonged juggle which proved only an overcomplication and the visitors were off the hook.
Next up during this breathless opening Ibrahimovic wheeled along the right and hit a cross into the area that Winston Reid deflected for a corner. To cries of “Rooney, Rooney” - the first such heard in the stadium for a while - the 31-year-old trotted to the right quadrant and delivered the dead ball. From this West Ham broke, but Sofiane Feghouli needed too much time near the home area and was dispossessed.
Mourinho’s men continued to come at West Ham in a red blur, with Rooney leading the charge. A corner from Slaven Bilic’s men became a United attack as Antonio Valencia raced upfield and fed Martial. He careered at Pedro Obiang, propelled by a frightening intent, and the defender was forced to flatten the Frenchman but Jones adjudged this to have happened inches outside the area. From the resulting free-kick Rooney went close to goal No249 for United and equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time club record with a dipping diagonal shot that had Adrián scrambling before steering it away.
Mkhitaryan, Martial, Rooney and Ibrahimovic were terrorising the visiting rearguard and Michael Carrick prodded and probed behind. The Rooney-Ibrahimovic partnership, in particular, was performing in the manner Mourinho will have dreamed off when recruiting the Swede in the summer. West Ham were rocking and the only way they might equalise appeared via a mistake.
So it proved, as Dimitri Payet’s shot was spilled by David de Gea and in came Ashley Fletcher for an unlikely strike. The centre-forward departed Old Trafford for east London in the summer and so the travelling fans gleefully informed their opposite numbers that he had done so because they are not very good - though the language employed was industrial.
Each manager had made five changes from Sunday’s 1-1 draw. For United out went Matteo Darmian, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford. In their place were Luke Shaw, Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Rooney and Martial. Bilic swapped Darren Randolph, James Collins, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini, and Diafra Sakho for Adrián, Reid, Edimilson Fernandes, Feghouli and Fletcher.
The poser as the second half began was if United could turn their dominance into a win, after failing to do so against Arsenal, Burnley, Stoke and Wednesday night’s opposition at the weekend. An answer came, this time within three minutes. This was another classy sequence, as Antonio Valencia cleverly found Mkhitaryan and he showed intelligence by picking out Martial. The No11 rocketed the ball into the roof of the net and United were ahead.
Martial might soon have scored a second but Adrián saved smartly. Before this Rooney collected a fifth domestic booking of the season, which rules him out of Sunday’s trip to Everton, but this was a poor decision from Jones as there was scant if any contact on Fernandes.
Martial then did score again to raise his season’s return to three when Valencia, who is rejuvenated under Mourinho, played him in and the forward slotted home.
The rest of the tie was played largely in an atmosphere of relaxed conviviality, though Rooney received a Reid boot to the face that left him bleeding, and why it was not a penalty only Mr Jones knows.
Even Bastian Schweinsteiger was given a first appearance under Mourinho. This was greeted by ironic cheers but there was nothing comical about United, as Ibrahimovic’s second in stoppage time proved.
Manchester United will now face Hull City in January with Southampton, 2-0 winners at Arsenal on Wednesday night, taking on Liverpool in the other semi-final. Guardian Service