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Manchester United Storm Into EFL Cup Semis

Manchester United Wayne Rooney
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United holds off the challenge of Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham United during the EFL Cup quarter final match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on November 30, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Manchester United defeated West Ham United 4-1 to advance to the semifinals of the English League Cup.

United will join Liverpool, Southampton and Hull City in the draw for the final four.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored at either end of the match and a second-half brace by Anthony Martial cancelled out Ashley Fletcher’s equalizer.

It was the second meeting between the clubs in the space of four days following a 1-1 draw in the Premiership.

United came flying out of the gates and had the lead after just two minutes.

Wayne Rooney threaded the ball through the middle for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian international took a touch to his left before playing a silky back heel into the path of Ibrahimovic for the striker to touch past the onrushing keeper.

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The spine of the team was looking particularly sharp. Michael Carrick was combining well with Rooney who often found Mkhitaryan. With the ball close to goal, the former Dortmund star would look for Ibrahimovic or find Anthony Martial out on the left.

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The interplay down the middle should have led to a second goal for Ibrahimovic. In the seventh minute Carrick squeezed the ball through for Rooney. The much maligned captain (as of late) brought the ball down and slid it into Ibrahimovic, but the Swede was twice denied by Adrian in the West Ham goal.

Adrian came to the fore again when Rooney’s 15th minute free-kick from the left looked destined for the far corner, but the Spanish keeper clawed it away at full stretch.

Martial, in particular, was looking in the mood and fashioned two chances within the first half hour.

The winger fired high when cutting in on a counter-attack after 18 minutes. Martial later forced Adrian into action when he tried to guide the ball into the far corner following another slick pass from Mkhitaryan.

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United continued to be direct and determined, choosing route one as its preferred highway forward. Yet the Red Devils’ desire to get upfield at 100 miles an hour stretched the game and offered space for West Ham to exploit.

The Hammers took full advantage 10 minutes before the break. Pedro Mba Obiang danced his way through challenges in the midfield before spraying the ball out to the left for Dimitri Payet. The French maestro cut inside and fired a powerful drive on goal.

United keeper David De Gea was in a good position, but uncharacteristically fumbled it, allowing Fletcher to pounce on the rebound.

It was a sweet moment for Fletcher. The 21-year-old came through United’s Academy, was loaned out to Barnsley last season and left the club for West Ham in the summer.

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As the halftime whistle blew, it left Old Trafford with the uneasy feeling of deja vu. For the second straight game, the home side took an early lead through Ibrahimovic only to be pegged back to 1-1 by West Ham before the break.

All fears were quickly banished after the restart. Martial was rewarded for his endeavor as he slammed in a Mkhitaryan cross in the 48th minute.

It was Martial’s fourth goal in five matches against West Ham. 

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The Frenchman made it 3-1 two minutes after the hour mark. Antonio Valencia combined with Ibrahimovic to break free down the right and crossed for Martial to put the game beyond West Ham with a clinical finish.

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United fans had even more to cheer about when Bastian Schweinsteiger replaced Martial for his first appearance since March 20th.

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The World Cup winner almost marked his comeback with a goal on the stroke of full time, but his stinging drive was always tailing away from Adrian’s net.

Instead it was Ibrahimovic who put the exclamation point on the evening, slotting home Ander Herrera’s pull back to cap off a dominant display.

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