Manchester United ended their three match beaten streak with a 3-1 victory over Northampton Town at Sixfields Stadium on Wednesday evening. With that victory, United have earned a fourth round clash with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at Old Trafford, the second derby at the Theatre of Dreams this season and a second chance for Jose Mourinho’s side to get one over Guardiola. United did not play well against the League One side by any means. The first goal of the match, scored by Michael Carrick came in the aftermath of an indirect free-kick after a backpass to the goalkeeper. Memphis Depay touched the ball for Wayne Rooney to thump towards goal, it rebounded and Carrick then put a sublime shot into the back of the net. At the end of the first half Daley Blind conceded a penalty with was scored by Alex Revell, levelling the score at the end of the first half. United made two changes ten minutes into the second half with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford replacing Memphis and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.
Just thirteen minutes later Ander Herrera put United back into the lead with a long-range finish, minutes after trying the same thing and clattering the post. United were where they needed to be, in the lead and would need to remain in this position for the remainder of the match, which they did. Northampton Town rarely threatened in the second half of the match, with United doing all they needed to do in order to get the win they needed to raise their morale and put an end to the three match losing streak. Herrera again popped up in the match, lofting a ball from United’s half towards the goal with Rashford setting off on a run to retrieve the ball, something you though he could not win. He did, beating the keeper spectacularly and putting United 3-1 up and game over for the home side.
Another terrible performance from the captain, even again League One opposition. Rooney could not even score from five-yards early into the match, despite being offside and rarely threatened on the ball. The captain has fallen dramatically and needs to impress the manager in order to win his place back in the team. Marcus Rashford, when he came on with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 55th minute of the match, played in the number ten role, behind the Swede, filling in well for the fallen captain. Rashford did what Rooney could not, score, and spectacularly so. Many will be slating the captain again, and at the end of the day it if only his own fault for not raising his game and leading by example. He might be a well-like teammate, but having him involved in matches in the form he is in is only going to cost United as the weeks pass, and really that is not something United need at the end of the season when they look back and see that things could have been changed with Rooney fighting for a position from the bench. Rooney is an influential player and if it did not work with him not playing, this aligned with him in the media will make it know that Rooney could have changed results, even though he has not changed them thus far and probably needs to find his hunger and spark for the game should he change things in the future.
Many seem to be annoyed with the Dutchman, who was playing his first match this season. Yes, he did not have a great game at right-back and seemed out of sorts at times, but for some to hit out against his talent seems a bit ill-informed. Fosu-Mensah is a great talent and can play at right-back, centre-back and in midfield. He needs time to find his feet this season, especially as he had not played until this evening. Many seem to forget that match fitness is something you need to play matches and not playing, not even for the reserves means that his match fitness was non-existent. Time needs to be afforded, something that many do not seem to give, but the same people say something similar about Wayne Rooney, who needs time to find his feet. Fosu-Mensah is an exciting prospect. I have seen him play at various age levels for United, and he has what is needed to achieve the heights he needs to reach. Many seem to suggest players are not good enough after one match, which is pretty pathetic if you ask me.
Manchester United’s defence is not strong, despite looking so at the start of the season. The resurgent displays of Eric Bailly during the four matches United won at the start of the season shows that he was a player who could be relied upon, despite the manager suggesting he was one for the future, rather than the now. It just shows how much the player has stepped up his game for his new manager and new club, the same could not be said about Chris Smalling and Daley Blind, who seem to have regressed. United have Phil Jones on the sidelines, to be honest he has been nowhere else for the last three years or more, so he cannot really be relied upon either. United only have youth aside of these four, a mixture of inexperience and excitement may well do the truck for Mourinho, but after his negative press during the three match losing streak, a gamble like this that did not pay off would see United dominate the back pages one against for the wrong reasons as United are the bread and butter for all journalists who want to slate something, most of the time unfairly. United will still need to strengthen in January, or next summer with a commanding central defender, one who could partner Smalling or Bailly, with Blind maybe better played in midfield.
This was his first start of the season, aside of the FA Community Shield victory over Leicester City at the start of August. Carrick stepped up and did what was needed against Northampton Town, scoring the first goal with a sublime finish. Partnered with Morgan Schneiderlin, a player who could replace Carrick in matches, keeping the team fresh for their onslaught of matches in the coming weeks and months. Carrick could allow Paul Pogba to be released from midfield much more to venture in advanced areas and help the French world record signing to find his feet. Carrick spoke about his playing time at the end of the match, telling the supporters not to worry about his lack of playing time, suggest that he knew the reasons why he was not called upon. United started the season playing well and with players performing, with the manager opting to keep his sides near enough the same for much of the season. Carrick will add the experience in the middle of the park. If Rooney is dropped too, it could fee up a place for Rashford to play behind Ibrahimovic, which would see the 18-year-old learn from the master, which would be good for his future. United clearly have a long way to go, but now another Manchester derby is on the horizon, meaning that United have a few matches to perfect their performances ready to deal a blow to Guardiola’s side, which will be fitting after the defeat at Old Trafford less than a fortnight ago.
Things have not gone well for United recently, but the confidence battle seems to have been won against Northampton Town. In know they were League One opposition, but they gave United a game and should be commended for doing so. United got what they needed from the match, a confidence booster. United now need to take what they have achieved from this match into the Premier League clash with Leicester City on Saturday, ensuring that they do their best in the match, taking all three points. Should they do that, they will be over the hill and heading into their second UEFA Europa League clash in a weeks time against Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford. A win there will end the three match winless run, turning it into a three match winning streak, which could put their season back on track after a short period of undesirable results. Manchester United seem to have stood up against Northampton Town, but now they need to be counted.