Manchester United will travel to Kenilworth Road to face Luton Town in the third round of the Carabao Cup this season. Nathan Jones’ Luton side have already beaten Norwich City 3-1 and Reading 1-0 in the first and second rounds of the competition this season and will be up for causing more damage to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s season, putting more pressure on the Old Trafford club this season. United, on the other hand, will need to bounce back after their Premier League defeat to Crystal Palace in their first match of the season, which was not a great match to watch for United.
United might be a much changed side in the Carabao Cup this season and it is expected that goalkeeper Dean Henderson will make his first competitive start for his club in the match against Luton, which could see him put some pressure on David De Gea, who conceded three goals in the Premier League opener. Solskjaer may rest some of the more experienced players in the squad, although right now, that would be a big gamble in a game that could eclipse that 4-0 defeat to MK Dons under Louis van Gaal’s reign as manager of the Old Trafford club.
There is a lot of work for United to do this season and the last of pre-season matches, despite being out of action for a month, with some players being involved in their countries UEFA Nations League matches earlier this month, meaning they have been playing some football during what was the summer break for this year. Solskjaer has been let down by the club this summer with strengthening required in defence; both the centrally and at left-back, the right-wing position and a striker, with a lack of depth up front for United, especially if there are injuries.
How United have faired against Luton Town, although the two clubs have not met competitively since 1992.
United and Luton have met 39 times in league and cup football with the first match being played in 1897 and the last time both teams met being in 1992. United have won 28 times, drawn seven times and lost four times. United have scored a total of 90 goals, conceding 26 goals and keeping a total of 20 clean sheets. 30 of the matches were played in the old English League Division One, eight played in Division Two and one match was played in the FA Cup. United and Luton have never met in the League Cup.
United are undefeated against Luton with the last defeat coming in 1987, a 2-1 Division One defeat with Bryan Robson scoring United’s only goal of the game. United drew the next match that year before winning the next eight, scoring 24 goals on the way. The last match was a 1-1 draw with Lee Sharpe scoring United’s goal. It may not be the best time to visit Luton as they are currently unbeaten in six matches, including two pre-season matches, two Championship matches and two Carabao Cup matches.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Luton Town in the Carabao Cup at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening…
Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
It is safe to say that David De Gea needs to be tested as the Manchester United number one goalkeeper and Dean Henderson is the player that will take the challenge to the Spaniard this season. Granted, Henderson is classed as a rookie goalkeeper but he’s got good prospects and seems to have confidence in himself, which is great to see. Henderson being installed as the United number one this season is not something that will happen overnight and not something that De Gea would allow to happen without a challenge but it is something that inevitably will happen.
Henderson has the making of a great goalkeeper as he has risen up a division each time he has been loaned out by the club, spending two seasons at Sheffield United, which has gone a long way into his development with a confident player Wirth aspirations to become a United and England number one during his career. De Gea will need to find some form to raise the challenge with Henderson, which could bring out the best of both goalkeepers this season and beyond. Henderson may have to settle for cup competition this season – maybe not the Champions League though.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United conceded three goals in the Premier League defeat to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday and that is not a problem that United want to make worse this season. Last season, the club conceded 36 goals during the entire 2019/20 season and conceding three goals in the opening match of the season will need to be set as a reminder to become better. Ideally, signing a competent partner for Harry Maguire would help in a way, as would the players playing to their potential. Solskjaer will have told the players that they need to be doing better – hopefully!
Against Palace, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly did not feature for United. Both should be starting against Luton in a big to up their match fitness so they can get up to speed and help drive United further forward. Harry Maguire will end up keeping his place in the team as will Luke Shaw as both look to build on their match fitness. At this moment in time, hope if the best thing we have as supporters of the club and personally, I hop that Ed Woodward and the Glazers have seen the problems at the club by now and should be talking about solving them – but will they?
Midfield Three: Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Donny van de Beek
United should have started with Donny van de Beek against Palace as it might have been so much different. When the Dutchman signed for the club this summer, it made me think that United had the best midfield that they have had since Sir Alex Ferguson but it just did not work against Palace with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay in a midfield two and Bruno Fernandes playing further forward. Against Luton, Solskjaer will probably rest Pogba as he was not the best player on the pitch against Palace but he was not the worst either.
Fred might be a good option against Luton which might help raise the player’s confidence level after a tough 2019/20 season but Solskjaer should not be dropping Fernandes and Van de Beek should be starting. United could play better in midfield three with three forwards ahead of them and possible the fullbacks overlapping the midfield to bee with the wide forwards. United need to find confidence in their game as last season, in the Europa League, the long spell of confidence and attacking winning football seemed to drop off and needs to be found again and restored in the team.
Forward Three: Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford
United had a great trio of attackers last season and they were responsible for 63 goals and 28 assists – a total of 91 goal contributions which is the best form the forwards for the club have been in for a long time. Marcus Rashford was in great form before suffering from a break in his back, which kept him out of action from January until the end of the lockdown. The contributed to the fact that United brought in Odion Ighalo on a loan spell until the end of the 2019/20 season, which was then extended, because of the coronavirus pandemic, until the end of January 2021.
Rashford has been poor, not contributing much and it has been making the attack seem a little out of balance. United should be seeking to bring in a right-winger, that will add balance to the squad and give United more options up front. Mason Greenwood was alive wire last season but he, like Rashford and Anthony Martial, will need to find his form again. Martial was the clubs top scorer last season and many were confident ahead of the Palace match but left disappointed. United need to find the key to unlocking their potential, rather that sitting back and looking out of options.
Substitutes: David De Gea; Victor Lindelof, Teden Mengi; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay; Odion Ighalo
When you look at some of the options on the bench for United, you can see why the club seems to be having problem after problem. Are the players motivated to play for United or do they value the money in their bank accounts at the end of each month? It should be a privilege to play for United but the ownership of the club has stuck with the dead wood for far too long, even rewarding them with new contracts despite the same things happening time and time again. United need to find a solution and that would be finding a football man to deal with football things.
The bench should have the drive and determination to win matches for United of the starting XI struggle to do so are need help holding onto a lead. This shows how far United have fallen. David De Gea will probably be on the bench for this match seeing as Sergio Romero is not in the picture anymore. In defence, Victor Lindelof and Teden Mengi could provide some options, the latter did well against Aston Villa in the friendly more than a week ago. In the midfield, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard Scott McTominay could play a part with Odion Ighalo the only forward on the bench, which is a problem in itself.
Written by John Walker