Rooney must stay on bench if United want to beat Liverpool
Mourinho wants United to improve against Reds and here's what they must do
Beating Hull City at home is shooting fish in a barrel.
But Manchester United still made a meal of their 2-0 League Cup semi-final, first-leg victory yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Jose Mourinho admitted that United must improve when Liverpool visit Old Trafford on Sunday, and this is what they must do...
GIVE ZLATAN A DOSE OF SOMETHING
Against a stout rearguard like Hull, Marcus Rashford's limitations were soon apparent.
Still only 19, his raw talent lacked the experience to hold up possession.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, ruled out through illness, was sorely missed. He's a street-fighting man disguised as a balletic performer, a ruthless combination that will test Liverpool's suspect defence.
Rashford, on the other hand, can be an explosive, exhilarating force, when he cuts inside or plays off a conventional target man. But he's not ready to lead the line against the Reds.
Ibrahimovic must shake off his sickness or his teammates may be left feeling queasy.
FELLAINI MIGHT BE A THREAT
Don't laugh. But Marouane Fellaini presents a viable attacking alternative against Liverpool.
Now stop that giggling because the first-half against Hull was no laughing matter.
United dominated every stat except the only one that mattered. They rarely looked like scoring.
A sudden illness crisis left Hull with only six available substitutes and midfielder Tom Huddlestone in central defence.
Yet United's clipped crosses into the box, with some fine deliveries from Matteo Darmian, were not put away.
Rashford and a hapless Wayne Rooney barely troubled the back four.
But the belligerent Belgian genuinely unsettled Hull when he arrived as a late substitute.
His untamed afro now makes Fellaini look alarmingly like Tina Turner, but he was simply the best option in the air.
His looped header was excellent, the kind of decisive finish that had eluded United.
Fellaini might resemble a circus freak but, if his team are toiling against Liverpool, they should send in the clown.
FORGET ROONEY'S RECORD
Mourinho must be secretly fed up with his captain's quest to break the club's scoring record.
Until Rooney knocks in his 250th goal for United, two things are assured.
First, a camera high in the gantry will be stuck on Sir Bobby Charlton's face for 90 minutes, desperately seeking a change in expression (there aren't many).
And, second, United's attacking play will remain stilted and slightly handicapped.
Rooney has earned the inevitable accolade and his team-mates are obviously eager to please.
But his position just outside the box provided neither feast nor famine for the hosts.
He saw lots of the ball, but never seriously tested Hull's goalkeeper.
He wasn't a striker or a No. 10, merely drifting around the box, picking up passes and generally slowing United to walking pace.
When his 250th goal arrives, it'll be thoroughly deserved and every accolade warranted.
But it probably won't come against Liverpool.
With the best intentions, Rooney belongs on the bench.
WAKE UP THE DEAD AT OLD TRAFFORD
Mourinho's gentle jibe at the lack of atmosphere wasn't quite as spiteful as Roy Keane's "prawn sandwich" diatribe, but the United manager was right nonetheless.
Old Trafford delivered the kind of damp squib that makes it hard for the neutral to warm to their support base.
For much of the match, the stadium was a Walking Dead set, with Fellaini's afro providing the scary make-up.
United's first-half meandering was met with a muted response in the stands, creating a chicken and egg scenario.
Which came first - the boring first half or the tedious atmosphere?
Mourinho should be concerned because the high-flying Scousers will tear the roof off Old Trafford just to goad the home crowd, just because they can.
The Reds will bring the orchestra with Juergen Klopp playing the wild-eyed conductor. And Mourinho knows it.
If Old Trafford sounds like a mortuary against Liverpool, it'll be United's funeral.