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Scouting The Opposition: Northampton Town v Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

After a nightmare week of three consecutive defeats, Manchester United begin their League Cup campaign with an away fixture at Northampton Town. The Midlands club enjoyed a successful 2015/16 season that saw them earn promotion to League One as Champions. Their good form continued into the new season as they went unbeaten in their first six games under new manager Rob Page. Their early success will have them brimming with confidence.  They will be relishing the chance to face a United side currently struggling for cohesion. Jose Mourinho and his squad will be hoping that League One opposition will provide the perfect opportunity to put recent troubles behind them. Expect a much-changed side to take the field against Northampton. With Mourinho keeping one eye on a weekend tie with Leicester City to reinvigorate their league form.

Manager: Rob Page

Rob Page had a successful playing career across the Premier and Football league up until his retirement in 2011. Upon his move into management, he led Port Vale to a twelfth-placed finish in 2015/16 before taking Northampton job for the current season. Unbeaten in his first six games in charge, including a penalty shoot-out victory over West Bromwich Albion in the second round of the EFL Cup, Page continues to grow his managerial reputation in the Football League. Favouring full-backs who push high up the pitch and quick wide players, Page will seek to exploit the defensive weaknesses United displayed in wide areas against Watford. The young coach will relish the opportunity to test his managerial skills against one of the best in Jose Mourinho. He may even find he is the more relaxed of the two managers come Wednesday evening.

Form Guide

Northampton Town 3-2 MK Dons

Northampton Town 2-0 Walsall

Chesterfield 3-1 Northampton Town

Key Player: Alex Revell

Currently Northampton Town’s top scorer, with three league goals, veteran striker Alex Revell will look to carry his impressive early form into the EFL Cup. Support in wide areas in the form of Kenji Gorre should offer him plenty of opportunities.  Especially if United perform as poorly in defence as they did at the weekend. Yet the prospect of facing a likely Centre-back pairing of Chris Smalling and Daley Blind will present a much tougher examination of his abilities than he is used to in League One. At 33, Revell is unlikely to bother them much with his pace but if he uses intelligent movement gained from a long career across the country, he could cause United problems.

Predicted Starting XI

Score Prediction

Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United

A cup tie against League One opponents would seem like the perfect opportunity to bounce back for Manchester United.  Yet complacency has seen the club slip up at this stage before. Louis van Gaal discovered to his embarrassment that a winnable cup tie against lesser opposition can turn into a disaster that reverberates throughout your Manchester United career.  His defeat at the hands of MK Dons early in his tenure was not soon forgotten. Changes are likely from the side that faced Watford on Sunday, especially with one eye on a home match against Leicester City this weekend. Luke Shaw is unlikely to feature due to a groin injury and it would not be a surprise to see most of the team who faced Watford left out this time. There will be many fringe players with a point to prove.  Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be eager to give a better account of themselves than they have done so far this season and earn a place in Mourinho’s first eleven. Michael Carrick may get his first chance after so far failing to play any minutes this season. Should Carrick start, United should be able to create enough chances to finish off the football league side.

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