Manchester United were made to work hard to reach the Carabao Cup Fourth Round, beating Rochdale in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Manchester United thoroughly dominated proceedings from start to finish, with Rochdale only threatening on the odd counter. But, as has started to become a running trend this season, the Red Devils lacked a distinctive cutting edge and their finishing left a lot to be desired as well.
Even so, Manchester United could easily have been two to the good in the first half itself, with Jesse Lingard smashing the woodwork, while Paul Pogba missed converting an exquisite lofted pass by Mason Greenwood from point-blank range. In the second half, the urgency was evident, as concerns over another frustrating result started to mount.
But, Rochdale could well have ended up taking the lead if not for a goal line clearance by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with Sergio Romero well beaten for Callum Camps’s effort. Manchester United, though, would finally go on to break the deadlock, with Mason Greenwood finishing off a fine move on the break, with debutant Brandon Williams initiating the move.
However, The hosts’ joy was short-lived, as Luke Matheson levelled things up with a close-range strike. Manchester United were unable to score the winner in the remaining 20 minutes and the game went to a penalty shootout. Fortunately for the hosts, each of their players held their nerve to slot home their penalties.
And, with Sergio Romero saving Jimmy Keohane’s effort, United progressed, but only just. The Red Devils will meet Chelsea in the Fourth Round after the Blues smashed Grimsby Town to pieces on the same night. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
Sergio Romero: 7/10
His incredible clean sheet record might not have extended, but Sergio Romero was perhaps, the most crucial figure in Manchester United avoiding an embarrassing result against Rochdale. Could not have done anything to deny Luke Matheson, but was at hand to deny Jimmy Keohane in the shootout. Such a handy backup option.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 6.5/10
Another key contributor to Manchester United’s progression. Typically underwhelming on the ball, with a few sloppy passes putting his side under pressure. But, defensively, Wan-Bissaka was unassuming as ever, making a couple of crunching tackles. The biggest moment of the night for the Englishman, though, was when he made a stunning goal line clearance to thwart Callum Camps.
Axel Tuanzebe: 7/10
A colossal performance by the Rochdale-born Tuanzebe, who was a surprise choice to be the Manchester United captain for the day. The youngster took to the leadership mantle with aplomb, keeping the defence organised and absorbing whatever little pressure Rochdale created.
A couple of moments of brilliance saw him stop Camp and Rochdale captain Ian Henderson. Not at fault for the goal his side conceded. Positive signs for the future.
Phil Jones: 6/10
Yet again Tuanzebe’s partner at the heart of the Manchester United defence, Jones had very little to do in a first half in which Rochdale were dominated all throughout. Taken off at half-time to allow Brandon Williams to make his debut.
Marcos Rojo: 6/10
For a second consecutive midweek fixture, Rojo turned out to be Manchester United’s most enterprising player, which is not exactly good news. For his part, though, the Argentine was decent once again, although his speculative efforts did not exactly help. Barely tested defensively, Rojo did well both as a left-back and a centre-back.
After his exploits against Astana, this was Fred’s opportunity to show Solskjaer that he deserved a run as a regular in the middle of the park. But, the Brazilian missed a great chance to nail down his place in the side. Largely ineffective, he mostly passed the ball sideways, lacking any penetration and incisiveness in his forward play. Back to the drawing board.
Paul Pogba: 6/10
Fit again, Pogba immediately returned to the starting lineup and made Manchester United look significantly better instantly. But, as the game wore on, it was clear that the team’s talisman needed some time to regain peak sharpness. Either way, he should have scored when set up by Greenwood in the first half, instead horribly heading off target from close range.
Andreas Pereira: 5.5/10
It really is starting to become a wonder as to why Solskjaer keeps putting his faith in Pereira. The Brazilian international once again flattered to deceive, losing possession on numerous occasions and failing to test Robert Sanchez apart from an early effort. Set-piece delivery was erratic. Lost his man for the Rochdale goal, as Matheson evaded him to net the equaliser.
Jesse Lingard: 7/10
In our preview, we had labelled Lingard as the player who needed to step up the most. And, the English international did just that. Unlucky to not have scored, as his header struck the crossbar.
While he flitted in and out of the game, he also showed tremendous awareness to open up play with his deft touches. Provided the assist for his side’s goal, with Greenwood doing the rest. Would feel relieved to finally have a first direct contribution to a goal in 2019, with the monkey now lifted off his back.
Tahith Chong: 5/10
Chong had the opportunity to prove that his lull against Astana was only a one-off. But, what transpired on Wednesday showed that the Dutchman still has a long way to go before he can even hope of becoming a regular for Manchester United. The teenager showed tremendous work-rate when marking Matheson. But, he struggled to impose himself in the final third, which is a concern.
Mason Greenwood: 8/10
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 25, 2019
For a second successive midweek game, it was Mason Greenwood who made the difference for Manchester United. Like many of his teammates, much of the game turned out to be frustrating for the teenager, who just could not manage to find the back of the net whilst also being denied by the brilliant Robert Sanchez.
Should have had an assist when he supplied a delectable pass to Pogba, only to see the Frenchman fluff his lines. The goal, though, finally came for Greenwood, whose finish was right out the top drawer, with a deft touch creating enough space to unleash a driven shot. Calm as you like for his penalty. Greenwood is slowly starting to become a star in his own right.
Brandon Williams: 6.5/10
Making his debut for Manchester United, Williams hardly seemed to be fazed by the occasion and instead, showed great confidence while charging forward, although he created nothing of note. Could have perhaps, stayed tight to Matheson for the Rochdale goal, but he was not to be blamed for the equaliser.
Turned possession over and started the move that led to Greenwood giving the hosts the lead. Could Williams be an option going forward for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United?
Daniel James: 7/10
On for the struggling Chong, James made an instant impact upon his introduction, combining well with Greenwood and Lingard to nearly see the former break the deadlock. Had the Rochdale defence constantly backpedalling against his mazy runs. Coolly found the back of the net with the match-winning penalty.
Juan Mata: 6/10
Mata barely had any time to make an impact. But, he was Manchester United’s most accomplished penalty taker and made no mistake in burying the first spot-kick of the shootout.