Manchester United 4-1 West Ham United

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Manchester United eased into the EFL Cup semi-finals as they beat West Ham with manager Jose Mourinho absent from the Old Trafford dugout.

The Portuguese, given a one-match touchline ban before the game, stayed out of view as United set up a last-four tie against Hull City.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic clipped in the opening goal inside two minutes before former United youngster Ashley Fletcher equalised as he pounced on David de Gea’s error.

Anthony Martial re-established the home side’s lead shortly after half-time, drilling Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s pass low into the bottom corner.

The France international stroked in Antonio Valencia’s low cross after a well-worked team move, with Ibrahimovic adding the gloss by tapping in with virtually the last kick of the game.

Mourinho will have been pleased with his side’s fluent attacking display, and even happy enough to bring on substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger for his first game since March.

Absent Mourinho still eyeing League Cup record

Mourinho claimed his first honour in English football when he led Chelsea to the 2005 League Cup, following that up by lifting the iconic three-handled trophy again in 2007 and 2015.

And naming a strong line-up against the Hammers indicated he is keen to become only the third manager to win the competition on four occasions.

It is not certain, though, where Mourinho, 53, watched his side on Wednesday night. “It is a secret,” he said afterwards.

He was seen arriving at Old Trafford, then spotted waiting to shake Hammers boss Slaven Bilic’s hand before kick-off. Then he disappeared into the bowels of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand.

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In his absence, the home side played with a vigour and verve long missing from Old Trafford performances in recent years.

The attacking quartet of Ibrahimovic, Martial, Wayne Rooney and Mkhitaryan were a handful throughout and, although the Hammers goal was preventable, Mourinho was more than content.

“Goals plus performance means the real happiness,” he said.

Jose Mourinho
Only Mourinho’s United predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson and legendary Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough have won the League Cup on four occasions

Rooney must wait to eclipse Sir Bobby

While Ibrahimovic and Martial put their names on the Red Devils scoresheet, it was Rooney and – particularly – Mkhitaryan pulling all the strings.

The Red Devils skipper was restored to the starting XI as he threatens to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s 43-year standing as the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Rooney, who needs one goal to draw level with Charlton’s tally of 249 strikes, might not have scored against the Hammers, but impressed with his all-round display.

However, there was a downside.

He picked up an avoidable booking for arguing with referee Mike Jones, therefore ruling him out of Sunday’s trip to Everton – and potentially breaking Charlton’s record at his boyhood club.

“Some of his passing and awareness tonight has been nothing short of magnificent,” said former Scotland striker Ally McCoist, who was BBC Radio 5 live’s expert analyst at Old Trafford.

Few positives for West Ham

It was during Sunday’s Premier League draw between the two sides in which Mourinho was sent to the stands by referee Jon Moss after kicking a water bottle in frustration.

The Hammers failed to replicate that disciplined performance at the weekend as they unravelled in the second half on Wednesday.

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Bilic will have been pleased with battling qualities shown by his side in the first half, riding out an early storm to level with their first shot.

The Croatian manager will not have been pleased to see them carved open so easily after the break, however. Nor will he have been happy to see left-back Ryan Cresswell substituted to add to his injury woes.

Man of the match – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has struggled to force his way into Jose Mourinho’s side since his £26m summer move from Borussia Dortmund, but showed he is beginning to match the expectations placed on him. The Armenia captain set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opener with a cheeky backheel for his first assist in a Red Devils shirt, then he also teed up Martial’s first goal. “We know the reason we bought him and waited for his evolution, I’m happy,” said Mourinho

What’s next?

Back to the Premier League. Sixth-placed United go to Everton, who are a place and a point behind them, on Sunday (16:00 GMT).

The Hammers are a point above the relegation zone in 16th place and host Arsenal at the London Stadium on Saturday (17:30).

Key stats – Martial hammers West Ham again…

  • Manchester United have lost only one of their past 25 home League Cup games against fellow top-flight sides, winning 23 and drawing one, since losing 2-1 against Chelsea in January 2005
  • West Ham have won just two of their past 12 away games against top-flight opposition in the League Cup, losing 10
  • Anthony Martial has scored more goals against West Ham for Manchester United than any other opponent (five)
  • Former Manchester United player Ashley Fletcher scored his first goal for West Ham United in his 11th appearance
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 11 goals in all competitions for Manchester United – more than twice as many as any other Red Devils player this season
  • Ibrahimovic has netted five goals in his past four appearances, after a run of six games without one
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