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.