Jose Mourinho moved a step closer to a major trophy in his first season as Manchester United manager as goals from Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini secured a first-leg victory over Hull City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup.
A near full-strength United struggled to break down resilient Hull in a first half in which the hosts had just two shots on target - Mata forcing a good save out of goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who also tipped over Paul Pogba's long-range effort.
The visitors had chances of their own against a side who had won their eight previous games in all competitions, Robert Snodgrass causing problems from set-pieces.
However, Mata got the breakthrough just before the hour mark when he tapped in from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's knockdown.
Substitute Fellaini scored a second late on, heading in from Matteo Darmian's cross to put United in command heading into the second leg on 26 January.7
Serious business for Mourinho
The League Cup represents a genuine opportunity for Mourinho to claim a major trophy to add to the Community Shield collected last summer.
He has named strong sides throughout the competition and it was no different against Hull as several first-team regulars, including Wayne Rooney, Pogba and David de Gea, started.
With Hull bottom of the Premier League and struggling badly with injuries - they could only name six substitutes - a first Tigers victory in 65 years at Old Trafford seemed unlikely.
They were given odds of 20-1 to win before kick-off and their prospects looked even more bleak when midfielder Markus Henriksen went off injured inside 20 minutes.
But since new Portuguese boss Marco Silva - described by some as the new Mourinho - took charge last week the Tigers have looked much improved. They beat Swansea in the FA Cup at the weekend and more than held their own for long periods of the game against the Red Devils despite having to field a makeshift defence.