Manchester United 4-1 West Ham: Anthony Martial na Zlatan Ibrahimovic watupia EPL CUP
Tony Martial scored. And then Tony Martial scored again. Just like he does in the song. And now Manchester United are three games from the first trophy of the Jose Mourinho era.
It will not be easy, despite the softest semi-final draw against Hull. With Liverpool or Southampton waiting in the EFL Cup final, United still have work to do – particularly if Jurgen Klopp's much improved Koppites make it through. And will Klopp play the kids in a Wembley showdown against Manchester United? Unlikely.
Yet Mourinho has always set great store in laying down a marker by winning the first real trophy of the season and, wherever he was in the stadium, he will have been mightily pleased by this result, and this performance.
Anthony Martial scored two of Manchester United's four goals as they made it to the EFL Cup semi-finals
Martial pictured putting the ball into the top left corner to score Manchester United's second goal after half time
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Martial were Manchester United's goalscorers on Wednesday night in the EFL Cup
Martial scored twice against West Ham to send Manchester United into the EFL Cup semi-finals
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Valencia 7, Jones 7, Rojo 7, Shaw 5 (Blind 46, 6); Carrick 6.5, Herrera 6.5; Mkhitaryan 8.5 (Rashford 90), Rooney 7.5, Martial 8 (Schweinsteiger 86); Ibrahimovic 8
Subs not used: Romero, Mata, Lingard, Schneiderlin
Goals: Ibrahimovic (2, 90+3) Martial (48, 62)
Booked: Valencia, Rooney
West Ham United (5-4-1): Adrian 6; Antonio 6.5 (Lanzini 58, 6), Kouyate 6, Reid 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6 (Masuaku 45, 5.5); Feghouli 5.5, Fernandes 6.5, Obiang 6.5, Payet 5.5 (Zaza 76); Fletcher 7
Subs not used: Randolph, Nordtveit, Noble, Collins
Goals: Fletcher (35)
Ref: Mike Jones 7
Some thought him arrogant for electing to take his latest touchline ban from the Football Association immediately – removing himself from sight for Wednesday night's game. It suggested he was taking West Ham, and the competition, lightly, showing them a lack of respect.
By the end he looked entirely justified in his disdain. West Ham were a soft touch, unable to last beyond the first attack of the game in either half, weak defensively and often lazy.
If Martial grew in confidence on the left it was because West Ham did such a poor job containing him in the first-half, with Michail Antonio in particular contemptuous of his defensive duties. Mourinho had it spot on. His team may need him at Everton on Sunday. This one they could handle on their own.
Mourinho did not break cover during the game, but there was plenty to delight him in his hidey hole. Bastian Schweinsteiger made a cameo appearance as a late substitute – his first appearance in 255 days, since March 20 against Manchester City – and had a hand in the fourth goal.
Martial's influence was equally exciting. Mourinho seemed to suggest a week ago that the striker was running out of time to impress, with Old Trafford's song about the prolific nature of his scoring feats – and the value he represented at £50m – seeming increasingly optimistic.
Yet the manager's shake of the reins appears to have done the trick. Martial did miss a few in the first-half, but he scored twice after half-time and the first, at least, was taken in some style, an extremely confident finish.
It would have helped the tactical schemes of visiting manager Slaven Bilic if his players had not started each half with a defensive yawn, but that should take nothing away from United, who played some excellent stuff.
They have been improving for several weeks now, creating chances without getting the goals, but this could be the turning point. Win at Everton and a head of steam will be building. United are starting to look like the team they should be, given the stellar, physically imposing nature of the squad.
Wayne Rooney, in particular, was exceptional and only a rush of blood that led to a booking – first a foul, then some very visible dissent – spoiled an otherwise impressive performance in his favoured number ten role.
He is suspended for the next match, so has no chance of equalling or breaking Sir Bobby Charlton's United goalscoring record at his spiritual home, Goodison Park. A pity: on this form United could do with him, no matter Mourinho's worries about his pace.
Jose Mourinho pictured arriving at Old Trafford but Manchester United's manager was serving a touchline suspension
Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic scored in only the second minute at Old Trafford on Wednesday night
In the aftermath of his shot Ibrahimovic and Adrian had a coming together inside the penalty area
Ibrahimovic was hurt as he went down under this challenge from West Ham's goalkeeper after only two minutes
Manchester United's star striker scored but was hurt by West Ham's goalkeeper in the process
Ibrahimovic pictured holding his knee after opening the scoring for Manchester United on Wednesday night
Ibrahimovic continued playing despite going down after scoring his goal for the home side at Old Trafford
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea pictured celebrating their opening goal on Wednesday night
EFL CUP SEMI-FINAL DRAW
Manchester United v Hull City
Southampton v Liverpool
First leg to take place w/c January 9
Second leg to take place w/c January 23
Rooney's booking aside, if there was a negative for United it is that the 4-1 scoreline flattered West Ham. They could have had that margin before half-time, even if the early second-half goals made this a very comfortable evening. Still, stronger opposition than West Ham will not allow so many chances, and United must become more clinical if they are to sustain a title challenge in the second half of the season. Mourinho is wrong to keep blaming referee error. Many of the problems start with United's finishing.
There was no excuse for some of the misses on Wednesday night, either. The pressure was most certainly off.
Indeed, it couldn't have gone better for United from the start – ahead from their first attack, within two minutes of kick-off. What a beautiful move it was, too.
Rooney picked out Henrik Mkhitaryan with a quite superb cross field ball from a central position. The Armenian, beginning to return to favour with Mourinho after earning his displeasure against Manchester City, made a good run and then switched the play sweetly with a backheel pass into the path of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Suddenly the goal was open, goalkeeper Adrian – now the cup choice second string, having lost his place in West Ham's first-team – horribly exposed. He went to ground perhaps too eagerly and Ibrahimovic dinked the ball past him, Lionel Messi-style. Adrian was left beating the turf in frustration, but he could have no complaints.
Indeed, replays showed a reckless, studs-up and late challenge on Ibrahimovic after the ball had gone, which could have caused a nasty injury. It certainly looked a yellow card, at least.
Dimitri Payet pictured running with the ball as West Ham struggled to have an impact in the early exchanges
Former Manchester United youngster Ashley Fletcher scored the equaliser for West Ham to make it 1-1
A mistake by De Gea gave Fletcher the opportunity to make it 1-1 at Old Trafford in the EFL Cup quarter-final tie
Fletcher pictured celebrating his goal against his former club Manchester United on Wednesday night
Fletcher made it 1-1 as nothing could separate the sides in terms of a scoreline at half time at Old Trafford
West Ham goalkeeper Adrian pictured celebrating their equaliser before half time in the EFL Cup quarter-final tie
So it could have been far worse – not least because Manchester United had enough chances to have the game won within 30 minutes.
It took a fine double save from Adrian to stop West Ham going further behind after six minutes when another great pass from Rooney picked out Ibrahimovic. Adrian saved, but the United striker was on the loose ball instantly, Adrian equal to it again. After 15 minutes Rooney forced another acrobatic save from Adrian, tipping wide a viciously curling free-kick.
Martial missed two more chances – one blasted over, another with a shot as tame as a back pass – and Old Trafford regulars began to fear a familiar pattern. After 35 minutes, those fears were justified.
Pedro Obiang started the move, much as Rooney had started United's opening goal, with a lovely crossfield ball that picked out Dimitri Payet. He went on a run, cutting in from the left and hitting a dipping shot which David De Gea, in action for the first time, spilled. Ashley Fletcher was first to react, driving the ball into the net in front of the Stretford End. He no doubt dreamed of scoring before them as a youngster when he was rated more highly here than Marcus Rashford. 'He's one of your own,' sang the West Ham fans, mockingly. 'He's one of your own…'
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was looking to chase down Sir Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record
Rooney was booked and will miss the game against Everton on Sunday as a result after his fifth yellow card this season
Martial pictured giving Manchester United the lead in the second half as West Ham conceded early again
Martial ran away in celebration at Old Trafford as he got his side on their way to the EFL Cup semi-finals
Martial put Manchester United ahead early in the second half as he scored in the 48th minute on Wednesday night
Manchester United's two goalscorers Ibrahimovic and Martial celebrate together after the second of their three goals
The laughter didn't last long, however.
The second-half started and within three minutes United were ahead, and never looked back.
It was a beautifully constructed goal, too: a backheel by Antonio Valencia taking defenders away from Mkhitaryan and his cutback pass perfectly weighted for Martial. Even so, the finish was emphatic and clean, a first time shot leaving Adrian no chance.
His second was easier, although the build-up was no less impressive. Ibrahimovic opened up West Ham's defence again, and Valencia crossed for Martial to convert from close range at the far post.
The fourth, deep into injury time, was similar, but from the left side, Ibrahimovic finishing from close range after tenacious work down the left by Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera. There were other chances in that half, too – not least from Ibrahimovic and, to the delight of the crowd, Schweinsteiger.
One day, Manchester United are going to catch hold of a team and it will be messy. For now, this, and another tilt at Wembley, will have to do.
Martial pictured scoring Manchester United's third goal of the evening at Old Trafford against West Ham
Martial celebrates his third goal as the Manchester United star gave his side a healthy lead against West Ham
Ibrahimovic completed the 4-1 scoreline for Manchester United in the third minute of stoppage time at Old Trafford
Ibrahimovic pictured celebrating after making it 4-1 to Manchester United in their EFL Cup quarter-final win
Rooney took this kick to the face from West Ham's Winston Reid in the second half at Old Trafford
That challenge left Rooney bloody and the Manchester United captain was not happy with referee Mike Jones
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic pictured on the touchline at Old Trafford as Mourinho was missing