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The three key battles in Manchester United’s clash with Hull City

Manchester United go head-to-head with Hull City on Thursday. Here’s where the game will be won and lost.

Manchester United v Hull City - EFL Cup Semi-Final: First Leg Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With the first leg of the semi-final resulting in a 2-0 win for Manchester United, Marco Silva’s men have a big task today at the KCOM stadium. Meanwhile, José Mourinho is expected to field a strong selection to ensure that the Tigers do not produce a potential comeback.

Here are the three key battles that could shape the outcome of the fixture...

Zlatan Ibrahimović v Michael Dawson

Despite struggling to make a serious impact against Stoke City on the weekend, Zlatan Ibrahimović will be expected to start today as he’ll be looking to bag another goal to reach 20 goals in all competitions. The Swede received the Premier League player of the month award for his contributions in December, scoring five league goals as well as completing three assists. As Mourinho hopes for a confident win against Hull, Ibrahimović will be looking to get back to his goal-scoring form.

However, Ibrahimović will be in for quite a physical battle against Michael Dawson, who is regarded as Hull’s key defender at the back. After missing the first leg of the semi-final due to an injury, the 33-year-old will be hoping to block all the chances that the Red Devils produce. Only Curtis Davies has completed more clearances (157) and shots blocked (35) than the captain, who has played eight league games fewer than the former.

Abel Hernández v Phil Jones

Hull City v Swansea City - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

After struggling to get a good run of games under Mike Phelan, Abel Hernández has earned the trust of Marco Silva and repaid the new manager with two vital goals in the 3-1 victory over Bournemouth two weeks ago. The fact that top goalscorer Robert Snodgrass is reportedly close to joining Burnley means that the Uruguayan will heavily be relied upon for the remainder of the season.

Bearing in mind that Hernández is familiarly known for his dribbling ability, Phil Jones will have to make sure he defensively keeps focus throughout the game. The injury-prone defender has surprisingly completed 15 appearances in all competition so far this season. With Eric Bailly returning from international duty, Jones will have to continue demonstrating Mourinho why he deserves to be a regular starter in defence.

Paul Pogba vs Tom Huddlestone

Although he had a difficult time at home to Liverpool and away to Stoke City, Paul Pogba has been a key influence at the heart of midfielder for Mourinho’s side. The Frenchman may not be bagging a goal or assist week in and out; however, Pogba has create more chances (37) and completed more dribbles (55) than any other central midfielder in the Premier League this season.

Meanwhile for Hull, Tom Huddlestone will be making sure that Pogba doesn’t have it all his way. Despite being used as a centre-back in the first leg due to the amount of injuries Hull had suffered in defence, the 30-year-old is expected to return to his preferred position.