Manchester United were held to a third straight league draw on Wednesday, with relegation-threatened Hull City turning in an impressive defensive performance in a goalless draw. United dominated the match and went close to scoring on several occasions, though Hull held on for a point.
It took a few minutes for United to hit their stride, but before long they were in comfortable control. José Mourinho's men looked crisp in possession and stroked the ball around with confidence, and before long Hull were setting up camp deep in their own half. The orange wall proved frustratingly effective, and with the exception of a long-range Zlatan Ibrahimović effort, Hull keeper Eldin Jakupović was almost entirely untested in the game’s first quarter.
If there was any consolation, it was that Hull were themselves entirely impotent in attack. Cautiousness is understandable for a side in their position, though striker Oumar Niasse cut a lonely figure up front throughout the half. United very much had the upper hand, and it seemed only a question of when the first clear-cut chance would arrive, rather than if.
So it proved in the final five minutes of the half, when Ibrahimović bought space in the penalty area for the onrushing Paul Pogba. The rangy Frenchman surged clean through on goal, though his powerful shot was at a saveable height, and Jakupović was able to beat the ball over the crossbar. A little more composure and United would certainly have been ahead at the interval. As it was, Hull were still clinging onto a point.
Hull’s deep defending rendered Michael Carrick rather ineffectual, and Mourinho took decisive action at halftime. Wayne Rooney was introduced in place of the midfielder, and took up a position floating around Ibrahimović up top. The next change followed quickly, though was an enforced one: Phil Jones had to be replaced by Chris Smalling after sustaining what appeared to be a hamstring problem early in the second half.
United looked at their most dangerous when they went route-one, and Marcus Rashford almost found an opener after taking receipt of a Pogba punt inside the penalty area. Some fine control was, alas, undermined by a scuffed shot, and Michael Dawson shepherded the ball to safety.
The clock ticked past an hour with the game still goalless, leading to a swift third substitution: Juan Mata was introduced in place of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a final attempt at rebooting United’s stuttering attack. The Spanish playmaker was soon presented with an incredible chance to give United the lead, and stabbed an Ibrahimović header goalwards from point-blank range. Alas, Jakupović was once again on hand to thwart United, making a game-saving stop on the line when everyone in the ground was waiting for the net to bulge. The Swiss keeper celebrated like he’d scored the winning goal, and it was little wonder.
Worse was almost to follow for United, who were throwing everything at their visitors in a scrappy final few minutes. Hull attacker Lazar Marković eventually found some space on the counter-attack with five minutes remaining, though he curled a shot against the woodwork with David de Gea rooted to the spot. The draw’s a poor result for United, but it was very almost even worse.