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What We Learned: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

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.

Wayne Rooney

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.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

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.

Defence

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.

Michael Carrick

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.

Conclusion

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.

Ratings: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Manchester United beat Northampton Town 3-1 at Sixfields Stadium on Wednesday evening, bouncing back from their three-match run of defeats, which puts them in a better position, albeit mentally ahead of their Premier League clash with Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday. Jose Mourinho and his United side have been the subject of many negative stories over the past few days, which again hits out at another manager in the limelight, which is a bit petty by the media who seem to use United as a meal ticket. United have not been the best team in the league, but they have certainly not been the worst either. Leicester are the current champions, languishing in eleventh place in the league, but there is no negativity there as it is what was expected and the stories will hardly bring the attention of the masses who love to read about the negativity at United. Shame they did not get more this evening.

United were down, but not out and this win will do a lot for confidence. Mourinho gave many fringe players a chance to show what they can do with Timothy Fosu-Mensah being singled out early in the match by disgruntled supporters if you could call them that. Some ‘fans’ seem to expect players who have not yet played this season to be ready to go, despite not having the match fitness required, or the experience of playing week in and week out, which certainly helps players find their feet. No, some fickle United fans seem to mock more than they celebrate based on the fact they know nothing about the players concerned, expect them to be ready to play, despite the fact they have not played this season, then moan when the player is not at his best. With Wayne Rooney, who has played the majority of matches, was not performing again (shock horror) yet still played the full match, not threatening one but, even from five-yards out. Here are the player ratings from the 3-1 victory over Northampton Town.

Manchester United

22 Sergio Romero

Commanded his area well. Put himself on the line at the end of the first half. The Argentinian did what he needed to do in the second half, which helped United win the match.

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24 Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Could have scored towards the end of the first half, but hit the crossbar. The Dutchman saw his match ended ten minutes into the second half with Marcus Rashford replacing him.

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Chris Smalling

Apart from the penalty which was conceded by Blind, Smalling did what he needed to do defensively despite the defence being shaky at times.

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17 Daley Blind

Gave away the penalty which levelled the match towards the end of the first half. Saw himself booked late into the match. Eric Bailly is the preferred partner for blind. This defence would end up costing United against a more superior team.

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16 Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian left back did well against Northampton Town. He got forward at times, did what he needed to do on the left flank and seemed much better than against Feyenoord, but the opposition were not as good as the Dutch side.

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Ratings: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Did his job in midfield without really being noticed. Seemed to play well with Michael Carrick in the centre of the pitch. Should be getting more time under Mourinho this season. Was replaced by Fellaini in the 73rd minute.

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16 Michael Carrick

Put United ahead after an indirect free-kick with a sumptious effort. Was the Man of the Match for me, as well as the pundits on Sky Sports. Needs to be given more game time, he himself said people need to be patient.

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Ratings: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Did not have the greatest match against lower opposition. Needs to improve or he will be out of chances. Seemed to be up for the occasion at the start of the match, but that soon disappeared with him not making an impact. He was replaced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic ten minutes into the second half.

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21 Ander Herrera

During the first half, you did not see much of Herrera, which was not a bad thing. He did what he needed to do, much like Schneiderlin. In the second half, Herrera made his presence known, trying at attempt from long-rage and hitting the post, try again later into the match and scoring United's second, also sending the ball up to try and score again, the ball with Rashford chased, won and scored with.

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18 Ashley Young

The English winger made his presence known throughout the match, but never got onto the end of anything which would have threatened. In the second half he player in the right-back role, playing well and doing what he needed to do, but nothing spectacular.

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Ratings: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

The captain did not do all that well against the Cobblers. Missed from five yards early in the match, was offside for another. Seemed to try, but that does not get him off the hook. After the first two changes, Rooney was pushed into a right-wing position, a position he did not keep too, which could have let the team down. I find him to be more frustrating that he was at the weekend unable to make the grade against a League One side.

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Substitutes

10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Replaced Memphis. The Swede did not really make much of an impact in the match, doing what he needed to do in order to help his teammates attack. He did not need to press much as Rashford and Herrera left some breathing space for United.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Fosu-Mensah. Another great moment for the 18-year-old. W9on a ball that he should never have won, not being disrespectful but it was a ball that was well out of his reach, but he never gave up, beating the keeper and putting United 3-1 up. Great bit of play for the young lad and something to knock another nail in the coffin of Wayne Rooney.

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27 Marouane Fellaini

Replaced Schneiderlin. Came on with 17 minutes to go and did what he needed to do. Gave United a height and physicality presence, but did nothing of note to impact the match. United extended their lead two minutes after he came on giving the team some breathing space.

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Report: Northampton Town 1-3 Manchester United – EFL Cup 2016/17

Manchester United beat Northampton Town 3-1 at Sixfields Stadium after Michael Carrick put his side into the lead early in the first half, but United gave away a penalty at the end of the first half with the scores leveled. Ander Herrera, after trying something similar earlier in the match, doubled United’s lead from range. Marcus Rashford became the man of the moment once again by chasing a ball he was unlikely to win, beating the keeper and finding the back of the net. United were less convincing, but a win is a win and it has ended the three-match defeat streak.

Jose Mourinho made a few changes to his starting lineup with David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba all being left home with Anthony Martial on the sidelines through injury. Sergio Romero, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young were given starts with the manager keeping an eye on the Premier League fixture against Leicester City on Saturday. United  started well, as they should have against a League One side. It did not take long for Wayne Rooney to fluff his lines, though, missing from less than five yards out. United, even if they do beat Northampton Town, will still have a lot of work to do ahead of this weekend’s match, and the UEFA Europa League match at Old Trafford next Thursday.

Inside twelve minutes, United could have been a few goals to the good, but the finishing was nothing to write home about. United should have been a bit more clinical against their opposition. United were playing well against the Cobblers, against as would be expected. A back pass for the home side saw United granted an indirect free-kick, which was taken by Memphis with a touch, then Rooney with a kick towards goal, which deflected back, found its was to Carrick with him scoring for United. If United can continue playing in this manner, confidence will rise ahead of Saturday’s match, which will only be a good thing.

After the opening goal, the tempo of the match changed slightly with United showing less urgency, but still the team in the driving seat. I guess the relief will have been there after scoring the opening goal of the match. In the 30th minute of the match, Rojo and Schneiderlin played a great ball over to the right with Fosu-Mensah running towards goal, he then headed the ball hitting the crossbar. Rooney was there to bury the rebound, but he was offside. United found themselves under the cosh with the match heading towards the 40th minute with Kenji Gorré, the former United Academy player heading towards goal, with his shot going over the crossbar. United were let off there,

In the 41st minute, United gave away a penalty through Blind with Alex Revell finding the back of the net to level the score. United now needed to work much harder to get back into the lead. United had another dubious moment towards the end of the half with Romero clattering Taylor to thump the ball out of the box. Nothing given for the challenge, which was fair. United immediately went on the attack with Rooney being thwarted by the goalkeeper. There were two minutes at the end of the first half, with it coming to and end with both teams level at 1-1.

No changes at the start of the second half for United, but it was not long before two changes were made. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford replaced Memphis Depay and Timothy Fosu-Mensah with Ashley Young pushed into the right-back role and Rooney now pushed into the right-wing role with Rashford tucked in behind Ibrahimovic. United seemed to have made the right changes, which seemed to make the home side more determined to break through and test United in a bid to get something more out of the game. United had a lot to do and were far from convincing. Just before the hour, Herrera clattered the post after a low drive into the box towards goal, which was a shame. Moments later Young was taken out with a poor challenge, with only a throw-in given which Rooney gave to the Cobblers keeper.

In the 68th minute, after breaking forward Ander Herrera after receiving the ball thumped his effort from range into the back of the net, not long after trying earlier in the match and hitting the post. Marouane Fellaini replaced Schneiderlin, who had a good game. Moments later, United extended their lead with Marcus Rashford chasing the ball, which seemed ahead of him. He then dummied the keeper, won the ball and walked it into the back of the net. Nice bit of skill from the 18-year-old. United were in the position where they had the insurance of a two-goal cushion, which was where they needed to be to command the match, staying in that position despite some threatening play from the home side.

United got the win they needed, despite it not being all that convincing at times, but they will be into round four of the EFL Cup and head into their Premier League clash with Leicester City knowing that they have ended their three-match losing streak, albeit against a League One side, a side they should have beaten convincingly, but didn’t. United might be down, but they were not out and the play of Rashford, Herrera and Carrick was reassuringly good and seemed to help United in their moment of need.

Goals: Michael Carrick 18′, Ander Herrera 68′, Marcus Rashford 75′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 68′, Ander Herrera 75′

Manchester United: Romero; Fosu-Mensah (Rashford 55′), Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Schneiderlin (Fellaini 73′), Carrick; Memphis (Ibrahimovic 55′), Herrera, Young; Rooney

Substitutes Not Used: Johnstone; Darmian; Mata, Lingard

Bookings: Daley Blind 74′

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

Manchester United face Northampton Town in the EFL Cup at Sixfields Stadium this evening, a match Jose Mourinho’s side head into after losing three matches in a row. United are in the basement in terms of confidence, despite it being so much better at the start of the season. Leaks are finding their way into the hands of the media, Wayne Rooney is being slated by many supporters (rightly so) and things are just not looking as good as they were just over a month ago. Should United lose this match, it will be four in a row with United heading into a Premier League clash with Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, with them losing to Chelsea in the EFL Cup on Tuesday evening. United will need to find their feet, and fast, or this season could go horribly wrong with similar problems as the last three seasons. Is the manager to blame, or do some of the players now need to take a long hard look in the mirror and see everything is not as good as they think it is? Wayne Rooney, I was looking at you. Here are the starting XI’s and list of substitutes for both teams this evening.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Blind, Rojo;

Schneiderlin, Carrick;

Memphis, Herrera, Young;

Rooney

Substitutes:

Johnstone; Darmian; Mata, Lingard, Fellaini; Ibrahimovic, Rashford

Northampton Town:

Smith;

Moloney, Diamond, Zakuani, Buchanan;

McCourt;

Gorre, Beautyman, Taylor, Hoskins;

Revell

Substitutes:

Cornell, Byrom, Richards, Potter, Sonupe, O’Toole, Nyatanga

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.

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.

passing

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.

wingers

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

copyright: JW