Tactical Preview: Northampton Town v Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Manchester United travel to Sixfields for their EFL Cup match against Northampton Town on the back of three straight losses leaving them in desperate need of avoiding a cup upset. Mourinho’s men are clearly the stronger team even with a second XI out but tactically United are all over the place and unless they can sort themselves out soon then it could get worse. Northampton Town are a team finding their feet in a new league after their promotion to League One last year under a new boss in Rob Page and it’s been a relatively successful venture so far having lost only one league game so far.

I said it above and I’ll say it again, United have been absolutely woeful tactically. Against Manchester City, United were blown away within the first 30 minutes with no clear idea of how the midfield should operate together, no idea of their positions and no clear plan in whether the team were supposed to press the opposition high or sit back deep and try to counter attack. This trend continued in the game against Feyenoord midweek and came harshly down upon United against Watford where certain players looked more like semi-professionals instead of the £300k a week players they are supposed to be. Manchester United are likely to drop numerous players for the weekend and give the fringe players a run who are more hungry and hope it pays off, what is unlikely to change is the formation and approach to the game.

4-2-3-1 seems to be the set upon formation and in all honesty, it’s probably too defensive for the game against Northampton. It is likely that Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera will be the two sitting deep trying to dictate the play forward like they did against Feyenoord, which worked well but unless Herrera uses his attacking capabilities more, then United will could struggle to build attacks. Their attacking build up will be enhanced with the addition of Daley Blind to the team, who is likely to start at centre-back. His composure at the back and ability to bring the ball forward will allow Herrera to drive forward as well as providing balls up for Rashford and wingers alike. The table below shows the players passing range and completion rate and as you can see Blind sits third in total passing score and first for average passing length.


Speaking of wingers, with Anthony Martial picking up what seemed like a concussion on Sunday against Watford, he will take no or little part in the game allowing Jesse Lingard or Memphis Depay to step in on the left-hand side. It’s actually quite possible that both will start as Paul Pogba will be rested moving Juan Mata into the number 10 role leaving space out wide. Memphis has been getting five minutes here and there looking to get fit and prove himself, this could be a good opportunity for him. Lingard has been knocked down a peg after his Community Shield heroics especially after his poor display in the first half v City. Both players have to prove themselves if they start, even if it is only a cup game against a lower league team, play poorly and it will do them no favours.


Northampton Town come up against United at possibly the best time for them, United have been struggling and the Cobblers have been playing good football. Most of their play is linked through the attacking duo of Marc Richards and Alex Revell, the two big men provide a focal point for virtually all attacks allowing the quicker players such as Swansea loanee, Kenji Gorre who is looking to turn heads on TV. The young winger is quick, seriously quick. He will take on players all day long and has a good eye for a goal. Not only are they potent up front but they have an experienced head dictating the play in midfield with former Portsmouth and Burnley player Matt Taylor, who is famous for his screamers, after the veteran joined Northampton at the beginning of the season. Northampton started off the season playing 4-4-2 with both Revell and Richards but since the arrival of former Ipswich midfielder Paul Anderson, manager Rob Page has used both the 4-4-2- and 4-3-3 with Anderson and Gorre out wide. Either way, they line up, this Northampton side has the potential to hurt United unless they shut them down early on and attack.

Key Battles

Matteo Darmian/Fosu-Mensah v Kenji Gorre

Either one of the potential starting right-backs ,with Valencia likely to be rested, will have a tough night ahead with the pace of Gorre, I think Fosu-Mensah would be suited better to cope with Gorre as he is more physical but has the pace too. Gorre prefers to cut inside but whether he goes either way, unless the United right back can clamp down early on, it’ll be a long night.

Memphis Depay v Brendon Moloney

Memphis has been in a bit of a rut lately and short of game time, he’ll be keen to impress if he gets the start. Moloney loves to bomb forward and Memphis will need to track back or United could get exposed. Memphis has the ability to beat absolutely any defender on his day and it should be a routine game but he can’t afford a slip-up and Moloney will not give him room to breathe.

Morgan Schneiderlin/Ander Herrera v Matt Taylor/Harry Beautyman

Ability-wise both Schneiderlin and Herrera are better players and should dominate in the middle but it’s a game away from home, on a smaller pitch and their opponents will be keen to impress. Beautyman and Taylor both have great technical ability and do dictate games in League One but Herrera and Schneiderlin will need to establish dominance. This matchup is the key to the game in my eyes, after United’s poor midfield showing in the last three games, the pressure will be on United who has everything to lose. Herrera needs to be silky and Schneiderlin needs to be disciplined.

Preview: Northampton Town v Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Sixfields Stadium, Northampton

EFL Cup 2016/17

Wednesday 21st September 2016 – KO 19:45 [Live on Sky Sports]

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Assistant Referees: Steve Child and Marc Perry

Fourth Official: Andre Marriner

Manchester United will battle League One side Northampton Town in the third round of the EFL Cup on Wednesday evening, after losing three matches in a row in the Premier League and the UEFA Europa League. Jose Mourinho’s United side started the season well, winning their first four matches of the season in August, then after the international break they seem to be struggling to scrap any kind of play together. United on paper are a good side, but in practice, they have been playing terribly, especially in the first half of the last three matches. Against Manchester City and Feyenoord, United did play better in the second half, but that did not happen again Watford at the weekend, where United lost 3-1 in the final minutes of the match, despite battling back from 1-0 down with Marcus Rashford equalising.

Losing three matches in a row is not the best form for a club to be in at this moment in time, especially going against a side who will turn up to face United. Northampton Town could have been declared bankrupt 10 months ago and now face their biggest match of the season hosting United at the Sixfields Stadium. Rob Page had banned talk of entertaining United until yesterday with the Cobbler’s having all eyes on the match, which if they win, will put them into the stratosphere, in the media at least, which will see more negative press heading United’s way. United have one eye on the Premier League clash with Leicester City on Saturday, which will be a match they need to hit back in, beating the champions, who do not seem to be in great form this season and sit in eleventh place this season, which is not a great start for champions and makes you look back last season at Chelsea, who were not in great form throughout the season, and were champions themselves.

United need to find themselves again. Their play is lethargic and they don’t seem to have the winning mentality that they had at the start of the season. Watching United U23’s play against Derby County at Old Trafford on Monday night, taking the lead, then being pegged back by a Derby goal, then taking the lead again, before Derby equalised again, before taking the lead again. That is the United way many misses. United, despite being pegged back, did once try to find the lead again. That never give up attitude seems to have gone and needs to be found. Having a team like Watford beat you, fir the first time in 30 years at Vicarage Road, you do wonder whether the fire will ever come back. After conceding the first goal, United should have hit back hard, putting themselves into the lead, and show no fear in doing so again and again. That was not the case, though. United were more like a pussy cat than a lion, and of that does not change, it is going to be a long, hard season.

Wayne Rooney is a problem that Jose Mourinho needs to get to the bottom of. His fire is no longer there and looks like it has been dampened out and never to return. He is pulling Paul Pogba back and keeping players out of the team which should be ahead of them if they are fit. When Henrikh Mkhitaryan comes back, he should be ahead of Rooney in the number ten role. Rooney has no place in any United team at the moment until he can find his feet and show that he is worth something to the team. The captain should be leading from the front, but he is one of the main bottlers this season and if he does not shape up, he should be shipped out. I don’t see a United win. If the United that has turned up over the last three matches turns up. The Cobblers could seek all they can from this match if that is the case.

Manchester United Form:- LLLWW

Watford 3-1 L, Feyenoord 1-0 L, Manchester City 2-1 L, Hull City 1-0 W, Southampton 2-0 W

Northampton Town Form:- LWWDW

Chesterfield 3-1 L, Walsall 2-0 W, MK Dons 3-2 W, Coventry City 1-1 D, West Bromwich Albion 2-2 (4-3 penalties) W

Manchester United Top Scorers:

5 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 2 – Marcus Rashford, 1 – Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney

Northampton Town Top Scorers:

4 – Alex Revell, 2 – Harry Beautyman, Own Goal, Matthew Taylor, 1 – Paul Anderson, Zander Diamond, John-Joe O’Toole

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh muscle strain), Phil Jones (knee), Luke Shaw (groin), Anthony Martial (concussion)

Northampton Town Squad:

Manager: Rob Page

Goalkeepers: Adam Smith, Paddy Kenny, David Cornell

Defenders: Brendan Moloney, David Buchanan, Zander Diamond, Gabriel Zakuani, Aaron Phillips, Raheem Hanley, Lewin Nyatanga, Rod McDonald

Midfielders: Paul Anderson, Lawson D’Ath, Joel Byrom, Kenji Gorré, Jak McCourt, Alfie Potter, Harry Beautyman, Shaun McWilliams, Emmanuel Sonupe, John-Joe O’Toole, Matt Taylor

Forwards: Marc Richards, Alex Revell, Sam Hoskins, JJ Hooper

Injuries and Suspensions: N/A

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Northampton Town 2-1 Manchester United

Manchester United drawn against Northampton Town in the EFL Cup

Manchester United will start their new era in the EFL Cup by facing Northampton Town at Sixfields Stadium in the third round. Last time United featured in this competition with a new manager, they started out in the second round of the tournament, facing MK Dons, of which they were beaten 4-0, a shock for many. Many of the players who represented United in that match are no longer at the club, something which may suggest the number of changes made from the day Sir Alex Ferguson retired to the present day. Last season, in the Capital One Cup, the tournament’s former name, United beat Ipswich Town 3-0 in the third round, then fell to Middlesbrough on penalties in the fourth round, ending their participation in the tournament, which was won by Manchester City. United, under the management of Jose Mourinho, will be looking to achieve things this season. Whilst the EFL Cup may not be seen as a great trophy, silverware is something United will be looking to win, and in this tournament, youth will be given a chance. Mourinho has many players still yet to get a game, and September with this cup and the UEFA Europa League, United will have games a plenty.

Here is the full draw for the Round three of the EFL Cup:

Nottingham Forest v Arsenal

Leeds United v Blackburn Rovers

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland

West Ham United v Accrington Stanley

Southampton v Crystal Palace

Swansea City v Manchester City

Fulham v Bristol City

Bournemouth v Preston North End

Tottenham Hotspur v Gillingham

Everton v Norwich City

Derby County v Liverpool

Northampton Town v Manchester United

Brighton & Hove Albion v Reading

Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Stoke City v Hull City

Leicester City v Chelsea

*Matches will be played week commencing Monday 19th September 2016

Manchester United last faced Northampton Town in the FA Cup back on the 25th January 2004, beating them 3-0 with goals from Mikael Silvestre, Diego Forlan and an own goal from the home side. United have played The Cobblers on three other occasions, once in the FA Cup on the 7th February 1970, with United running out 8-2 victors away from home, with George Best scoring six goals, with a brace from Brian Kidd. Before that, both matches were in the Football League Division One, with United winning 6-2 on the 5th February 1966 at Old Trafford, with Sir Bobby Charlton scoring a hat-trick, Denis Law scoring a brace and John Connelly scoring the other. United also drew with the Cobblers 1-1 earlier that season on the 28th August 1965, with John Connelly scoring United’s goal that day. United and Northampton Town have a good history, with United reigning supreme in three out of four matches, which will put them in good stead to earn a place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup this season. Northampton Town, on the other hand, are giant killers, beating West Bromwich Albion 4-3 on penalties, after a 2-2 draw on Tuesday evening.

copyright: JW