Manchester United look to put an end to their dismal three-game losing streak when they travel to the Sixfields Stadium to take on League One side Northampton.
The Red Devils are under severe scrutiny due to lacklustre performances in the Premier League and Europa League. Even in the last game they did manage to win, it was mere fortune as Marcus Rashford scored a lucky goal in injury time to seal the deal at Hull City.
Manager Jose Mourinho too has been under the cosh and his tactics are being heavily criticised by a number of media spokespersons around Europe. Thus, the best way for him to slam his critics is to bounce back with a convincing victory against a lesser opposition.
For Northampton, it’s all about the moment and very little hopes lie on the League One side to defy the odds on Wednesday. However, prior to Saturday’s defeat against Chesterfield, the Cobblers were on a 31-match unbeaten streak in the league.
Also, in the EFL Cup, the hosts have already knocked out a Premier League side in West Bromwich Albion and will be looking to complete a double, regardless of the odds on the day.
After playing David de Gea in every minute of every game this season, Jose Mourinho is likely to give the Spanish number one a much needed breather. Backup keeper Sergio Romero is expected to replace de Gea in goal for Manchester United.
Ashley Young may be given a go at left-back due to the unavailability of Luke Shaw and recent dismal showings of Marcus Rojo. Eric Bailly will also be rested for this game, meaning Chris Smalling and Daley Blind can start together at the heart of defence for the first time since the end of last season.
Veteran Michael Carrick has not played a single Premier League minute and is almost certain to be selected by Mourinho for the game against Northampton. Morgan Schneiderlin has also been under-utilised by the manager this season and could be given ninety minutes to prove himself.
Memphis Depay, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata are not Mourinho’s first-choice options in their respective positions, but due to a number of first-team players likely to be rested, the attacking trio could be given the nod, with Marcus Rashford set to be the focal of point of the Red Devils’ attack.
For the hosts, Adam Smith is likely to start in goal with Brendan Moloney and David Buchanan taking up their positions as right and left-backs. Midfielders Harry Beautyman and Jack McCourt are likely to form a double pivot in the middle of the park.
Matthew Taylor, Paul Anderson and Alex Revell are likely to interchange positions throughout the course of the game in the attacking third. 21-year-old Kenji Gorre, who is on loan from Swansea City, will lead the line for the Cobblers.
- Northampton have never beaten Manchester United.
- The last time Northampton were involved in a third-round League Cup match, they beat Liverpool 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw at Anfield in September 2010.
- The two sides met in the FA Cup in 1970 and 2004 with United winning 8-2 and 3-0 respectively. However, this will be their first meeting in the League Cup.
- United have been knocked out of the League Cup by lower league opposition in each of the past two seasons (by MK Dons and Middlesbrough).
- United manager Jose Mourinho has won seven of his eight League Cup matches against lower league opposition, drawing the other.
Watch out for
The 34-year-old midfield maestro has been a maligned figure under Mourinho but may be given the chance to prove his worth against Northampton. The Englishman is one of the best passers in the Manchester United team and his presence at the heart of midfield can be key to his side’s performance on the day.
Northampton 1-3 Manchester United
While United have not been in the best of form of late, they should have little trouble in overcoming Northampton in their own backyard. The absence of Luke Shaw may have been a fatal blow, but the Englishman would anyway have been rested for the game.
Moreover, Mourinho has decent bench strength at his disposal and has made sure to have able replacements for every positions. Thus, due to the Red Devils’ mere superiority in the ranks, it looks like they will cruise into the fourth round.
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