Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has urged their fans to improve when the club face Liverpool in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday -- telling them not to just "come to the theatre" but "play with us."
Old Trafford had a flat atmosphere inside it for much of the EFL Cup semifinal first leg against Hull City on Tuesday. United were not at their best on the pitch -- and that was met by quietness in the stands -- until Juan Mata broke the deadlock and Marouane Fellaini added a late second to secure a 2-0 advantage.
Speaking in his postmatch news conference, Mourinho said: "Maybe I didn't do my job well to prepare players for the game. Maybe I should bring more tension to the dynamic, preparing the game.
"The players have to improve, I have to improve and the fans also have to improve for a big match on Sunday. Today our performance was good enough to win but, on Sunday, we all have to improve.
"I always think we are responsible for the fans' participation in the game. It's our responsibility.
"If we play well and enthusiastically, the fans come on to the pitch. When we don't play so well, and not with emotion and intensity, it's normal for the fans to relax a bit.
"We have amazing fans. When we were not good, they were behind us, pushing us, supporting us.
"What I feel is that Sunday is a special match for us, a special match for Manchester United fans. Don't come to the theatre -- come to play with us."
Fellaini ran over to Mourinho and embraced him after scoring his late goal -- but the United manager still does not believe that the job is done ahead of the second leg in Hull on Jan 26.
Discussing the Belgian's goal, he said: "It's important but I'm not going to say we are going to Wembley -- but it gives us a little bit of space."
Speaking about the celebration, after he had publicly backed Fellaini, he added: "That's why I'm here -- to support the players, especially players in a difficult situation. He has a very strong mentality. He was not afraid, in the next match after Everton [when the Belgian gave away a penalty] to go to the pitch again.
Today he scored an important goal for us. It changed the dynamic and empathy with the fans."
Looking ahead, Mourinho wants "one last effort" from his men on Sunday before they have a six-day break ahead of the next match, which is an away Premier League game against Stoke City. He thinks there is plenty of room for improvement after the lethargy against Hull -- with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic having not played due to illness.
The United manager said: "It was not just the finishing, I think we played slow. We complicated things -- one more touch, one more second on the ball -- and, yes, we missed important chances.
"But nine victories in a row -- I cannot ask for more. Now we need one last effort. We need to recover and focus on Sunday."
Mourinho said "I think so" when asked if Ibrahimovic will face Liverpool -- but added that "I have my doubts" about Marcos Rojo, who has a muscular problem.