Manchester United will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they welcome Rochdale to Old Trafford for a Carabao Cup Third Round tie on Wednesday.
Tuesday already witnessed the Carabao Cup take its first huge scalp, with Tottenham bowing out to League Two side Colchester. On Wednesday, several more bigwigs will begin their quest for the League Cup, one of whom are Manchester United, who play hosts to third division club Rochdale at Old Trafford.
Instability seems to be the key word to define Manchester United’s season so far. The Red Devils have won, drawn and lost two games each and the inconsistency in the Premier League means they still find themselves eighth on the table despite their own problems. The Carabao Cup, though, provides a genuine shot at winning a trophy this season.
Rochdale, on the other hand, are languishing in the lower reaches of League One, having managed to win just two of their nine league games so far. But, the Dale seem to have gone from strength to strength in the Carabao Cup, easing past Bolton Wanderers and Carlisle United in the previous two rounds.
Manchester United were comfortable victors on the only previous occasion when they locked horns with Rochdale, cruising to a 2-0 win in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
The injuries are starting to pile up for Manchester United, with Marcus Rashford the latest player to be sidelined. The English international picked up a groin injury in the 2-0 defeat at West Ham United this past weekend and is believed to be sidelined for the foreseeable future.
With Anthony Martial still not fit enough to return to action and Mason Greenwood recovering from tonsillitis, it is likely that Jesse Lingard could lead the line for Manchester United when Rochdale come visiting.
But, judging by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comments post the West Ham game, it looks like Greenwood could make the starting lineup, meaning Lingard should start on the right side of the Manchester United attack, with Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes completing the front quartet.
Chong, though, will need to step up after struggling to impose himself against Astana, while Gomes will hope to continue in the same vein as last week’s European fixture. Another Manchester United academy graduate, James Garner will likely make his first start of the season, lining up alongside Fred in the midfield double pivot.
Meanwhile, there is some good news for Manchester United in that Paul Pogba is set to return against Rochdale, although the Frenchman is only likely to make an appearance off the bench to ease him back into the thick of things. The remainder of the side should have a similar look as the one against Astana last weekend.
Marcos Rojo is expected to return to the left-back slot after impressing in the Europa League, with Diogo Dalot lining up on the opposite flank. Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe should form the central defensive pairing, while Sergio Romero will take his customary place in goal for cup ties.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Dalot, Tuanzebe, Jones, Rojo; Fred, Garner; Lingard, Gomes, Chong; Greenwood
Brian Barry-Murphy only has a couple of injury concerns to deal with ahead of what will perhaps, be his side’s most eye-catching fixture of the season. Against Manchester United on Wednesday, the Rochdale boss will be without Eoghan O’Connell, Ryan McLaughlin and Rekeil Pyke, with O’Connell picking up an injury this past weekend against Fleetwood.
But, there is some positive news as well, with veteran striker Aaron Wilbraham expected to be back in contention for the Carabao Cup fixture. Wilbraham, though, is unlikely make the starting lineup, with Rochdale captain Ian Henderson expected to lead the line against Manchester United.
The absence of Pyke means Jimmy Keohane might line up on the left side of the Rochdale attack, with Stephen Dooley being the designated winger on the opposite flank. Callum Camps will play off Henderson and will be the creative hub for the visitors.
Manchester United academy graduate Ollie Rathbone is expected to feature against his former club, with the 22-year-old accompanying Jordan Williams in the midfield double pivot. The absence of O’Connell has rendered Barry-Murphy short of options at the heart of the defence and Jimmy Ryan could deputise for the 24-year-old.
Ryan will provide company to Jim McNulty in the central defensive partnership, with Luke Matheson and Rhys Norrington-Davies forming the full-back pairing. Robert Sanchez is a shoe-in between the sticks for Rochdale.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sanchez; Matheson, McNulty, Ryan, Norrington-Davies; Williams, Rathbone; Dooley, Camps, Keohane; Henderson
- Manchester United have met Rochdale just once previously, coasting to a 2-0 FA Cup Third Round win in the FA Cup.
- Manchester United have not scored more than once in a game for six matches across all competitions.
- Manchester United have won just two of their last six fixtures in all competitions (D2 L2).
- Rochdale, on the other hand, are without a win in four matches across all competitions (D1 L3).
- Manchester United have bowed out of the Carabao Cup against lower-league opposition in each of the last two campaigns, while Rochdale have succumbed to higher-league clubs for four seasons in a row.
Player to Watch
If the injury woes were already not too much of a burden before, they have now become a full blown crisis, with Marcus Rashford sidelined for a while after sustaining a groin injury at West Ham United. That leaves Jesse Lingard as the senior-most figure in attack for Manchester United.
Oddly enough, there is a chance that Lingard could even be the central striker, if Mason Greenwood is not ready to return. Either way, Lingard needs to step up considerably and bring his incredible scoring drought to an end against a Rochdale side that is ripe for the taking.
Lingard has no goals or assists in 2019 so far and what better way to prepare for perhaps, his favourite opponents, Arsenal, for the weekend, than by tormenting the third-tier outfit that present him the best opportunity to return to scoring ways. It’s about time he did anyway.
Manchester United 2-0 Rochdale
2019-20 has hardly been a stroll for Manchester United, who have even struggled to dominate the less heralded teams in the early stages of the season. If the display against Astana is anything to go by, the Rochdale encounter might not be a breeze either, although the visitors are unlikely to pose much of a threat.
Manchester United should dominate the proceedings all throughout and the final scoreline will depend on whether the likes of Tahith Chong and Jesse Lingard can step up. In the end, it is hard to see envision anything but a Manchester United win and The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co.