EFL Cup quarter-final | 30 Nov 2016 | Old Trafford | Scorers: Ibrahimovic 2, 90+3, Martial 48, 62; Fletcher 35
Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic each scored twice as Manchester United progressed to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup with victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford.
Top scorer Ibrahimovic gave the Reds the perfect start inside two minutes before former United striker Ashley Fletcher levelled before the break. Martial restored the lead three minutes after the restart with a composed finish before stroking home another from close range, before Ibrahimovic converted Ander Herrera’s cutback in stoppage time as Jose Mourinho’s side produced a fine performance to book a last-four spot in the competition for the first time since 2013/14.
For the second time in the space of four days, the Reds played host to the east London outfit at the Theatre of Dreams and, as Ander Herrera stated, United were desperate to make the fans proud after being left frustrated by Sunday’s 1-1 draw in the Premier League.
Mourinho made five changes to the side with Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, captain Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Michael Carrick replacing Matteo Darmian, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and the suspended Paul Pogba – who, like Marouane Fellaini, served a one-match ban.
Before kick-off, a minute’s silence was impeccably observed to remember the 75 people, including members of Brazilian team Chapecoense, killed in a plane crash in Colombia.
Once the action got underway, the Reds made the ideal start and stormed into an early lead when Ibrahimovic, who cancelled out Diafra Sakho’s second-minute goal at the weekend, got on the end of an exquisite Mkhitaryan backheel to clip a cool finish over Adrian and take his season’s tally into double figures.
The number nine almost added to his account five minutes later but, after being played in by Rooney’s clever reverse pass, was denied by a fine double save from Adrian.
The Hammers keeper also tipped Rooney’s free-kick behind for a corner, despite it appearing to be heading wide, and kept out Martial’s low shot.
The Reds, who had knocked out League One Northampton and holders Manchester City, enjoyed much of the play in the first half and carved out several openings but were continually thwarted by a stubborn West Ham defence.
Slaven Bilic’s side threatened occasionally on the break, with Sofiane Feghouli causing momentary panic with a purposeful run but a fine recovery tackle from Marcos Rojo ended that particular attack.
However, United were left dissatisfied at the interval after the visitors drew level through a familiar face, as Fletcher followed in after David De Gea saved Dimitri Payet’s shot to slot home his first West Ham goal since leaving Old Trafford in the summer from close range.
Possession: United 65% West Ham 35%
Shots at goal: United 9 West Ham 2
Shots on target: United 4 West Ham 2
Corners: United 3 West Ham 1
The Reds made a half-time change as Daley Blind replaced Shaw at left-back and were soon celebrating as United started the second half in the same way as the first.
Antonio Valencia’s backheel freed the impressive Mkhitaryan, who notched his second assist of the game with a fine lay-off for Martial to send a composed finish into the roof of the net from 10 yards.
The Frenchman almost gave United the two-goal cushion they needed a few minutes later when put in on goal by Rooney but couldn’t find a way past Adrian, who then had to get down low to deny Ibrahimovic’s powerful free-kick.
Martial put the tie beyond doubt just after the hour-mark, converting Valencia’s low centre for his third goal of the season following some excellent build-up play in which Ibrahimovic played his part.
It appeared to settle any lingering nerves for the Reds, who continued to boss proceedings and had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Mike Jones when Hammers skipper Winston Reid appeared to catch Rooney in the face.
With the Reds firmly in control, the Old Trafford faithful gave substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger a warm reception as he replaced Martial with four minutes to play for his first appearance of the season.
The German almost got on the scoresheet but sliced his shot off target before Ibrahimovic, who was earlier denied by a fine Adrian save, rounded off the evening nicely by tucking away a perfectly weighted cutback from Herrera.
It proved the final act as the Reds, who return to Premier League action against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, comfortably returned to winning ways to take another step closer to Wembley.
Possession: United 57% West Ham 43%
Shots at goal: United 17 West Ham 6
Shots on target: United 9 West Ham 2
Corners: United 5 West Ham 5
United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Shaw (Blind 45); Carrick, Herrera; Mkhitaryan (Rashford 90), Rooney (c), Martial (Schweinsteiger 86); Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Schneiderlin, Lingard, Mata, Rashford.
Booked: Valencia, Rooney
West Ham: Adrian; Antonio (Lanzini 58), Reid (c), Ogbonna, Cresswell (Masuaku 45); Feghouli, Kouyate; Obiang, Fernandes, Payet (Zaza 75); Fletcher.
Subs not used: Randolph, Nordtveit, Collins, Noble.
Up Man U!