After a topsy-tuvy run that saw Manchester United succumb to three straight defeats, they finally got their act together against Northampton in the EFL Cup and ran out 3-1 winners.
As many expected, the Red Devils began the game on the front foot and dominated proceedings for the majority of the ninety. Captain Wayne Rooney started as an out-and-out forward, but once again failed to have an impact on the game.
However, goals were not hard to come by for Manchester United as veteran midfielder Michael Carrick made the most of the rare start he was handed as he scored from the edge of the 18-yard-box to hand his side the initiative in the game.
With United dominating possession and creating a number of chances, it came as a surprise that Northampton were the next team to score. Against the run of play, the Cobblers were handed a lifeline when United defender Daley Blind cynically handed them a penalty.
Striker Alexander Revell volunteered to take the spot kick and sent Sergio Romero the wrong way to level things up for the hosts.
United duo Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford scored two unanswered second-half goals as Jose Mourinho’s side raced to a 3-1 win on the dat.
Here are The Hard Tackle’s talking points from the game:
A must needed win for United who were under immense scrutiny
After a summer that saw Manchester United dig deep into their pockets to attract world-class players to the club, things looked uphill for Jose Mourinho and co. The first four games into the season saw Morinho’s men play with an air of positivity and confidence and they looked certain to be challenging for the title this season, let alone the top four.
But an international break played spoilsport for the Reds as they succumbed to three straight defeats after it. New signings Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have looked off the pace since joining, and Rooney is struggling to keep up with the physicality of the games.
Thus, in many ways a win on Wednesday could reap high benefits for them. It was essential for them to fight back from their slump and start winning football matches. While Northampton is not the type of opposition that would post a considerable threat, a win is a win for United and Mourinho has taken it, no questions asked.
Michael Carrick shows Jose Mourinho what his side needs at the heart of midfield
Marouane Fellaini’s performances this season have been remarkably better than last season from an individual perspective. He is less prone to making errors on and off the ball, he is constantly winning back possession and is also making the most of his presence in the middle of the park.
Unfortunately, he is not able to make things happen for his side going forward, which has eventually led to United’s undoings. Partnered with Pogba at the heart of midfield, the Belgian destroyer is failing to form an understanding with the world’s most expensive football player.
Michael Carrick, on the other hand, showed in one game everything that’s lacking in Fellaini. The 35-year-old was calm and composed on the ball, seamless with his long-ranged passes and kept making things tick for his side on the day.
He can play as a deep-lying midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 or as a defensive anchor in a 4-3-3. Pogba, who is yet to come to terms with life in England’s top-tier, may thrive with an experienced partner in midfield. Thus, Mourinho may get the best out of the Frenchman if he chooses to field Carrick alongside him.
Ander Herrera makes a case for being a prominent figure in United’s first team
The Spanish midfielder started as a number 10 and looked the part from the outset. He was sharp on the ball, played the ball incisively to the wingers and also had a few link-ups with Wayne Rooney up front. He also scored an exquisite long ranger to hand United the ascendancy in the game.
If Mourinho decides to move to a 4-3-3, Herrera may be the last piece in his midfield jigsaw. With Carrick and Pogba, the Spaniard can easily form a breathtaking midfield trio. His work ethic is second to none and he also has a sharp footballing brain. Thus, it seems to matter of when rather than if Mourinho decides the time is right to give the highly-talented midfielder regular playing time.
Northampton put up a fight against a stronger opposition
Going into the game, nobody fancied the hosts to pull off a miracle at Sixfields against England’s most successful club. Despite United’s recent slump, they were expected to sail past the Cobblers to make it to the next round. But, that was not the case.
Northampton made things tougher than United expected them to. They decided to set back and defend and hit the visitors on the break. The Cobblers, against all odds, managed to find the back of the net through Alexander Revell.
In the second half they seemed to lift their foot off the pedal a bit, but apart from that, they should be mightily pleased with their efforts on the day.
Wayne Rooney is killing the Manchester United side and must be dropped without any further ado
Mourinho has decided to start Rooney for every game this season and it unfortunately has not worked out too well for him. The Manchester United captain looks like a shadow of his old self, and instead of complementing his side in the final third, he is in fact the root cause for the slowing down proceedings.
Not the sprinter he was once known to be, Rooney took a considerably more amount time to pick up the loose ball against Northampton. His passes were wayward and he struggle to perfect his first touch. It looked like he was out of sync with whatever Mourinho is demanding from his men, and dropping Rooney could restore parity to the Manchester United setup.