Manchester United survived a first-half scare to book a place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, eventually seeing off Northampton Town 3-1 on Wednesday evening.
Michael Carrick – making his first appearance of the season – got United off to the perfect start with an excellent strike early on, but the home side drew level before the break through Alex Revell’s penalty.
Ander Herrera put United back in front during the second half, hammering the ball in from substitute Marcus Rashford’s pass. The youngster then claimed a goal of his own, capitalising on a goalkeeping error to tap home with 15 minutes remaining.
As expected, Jose Mourinho made a number of changes to the United team ahead of the game, with the likes of Sergio Romero, Tim Fosu-Mensah and Memphis all named in the starting line-up.
Despite three successive defeats, the Reds looked determined to bounce back quickly and started positively, as captain Wayne Rooney – spearheading the attack at Sixfields – tested goalkeeper Adam Smith with a low effort inside two minutes.
The Reds then had a superb chance to take the lead just five minutes later, when Ashley Young found Rooney unmarked in the area after great work from Memphis, but the England international could only put his attempt wide.
Roared on by a vocal travelling support, United soon made the early pressure count, however. Mourinho’s men were afforded a rare opportunity to score from a free-kick inside the area on 17 minutes when Smith handled a back-pass, and Rooney’s strike deflected into the path of Carrick, who found the corner expertly from the edge of the area.
United were then denied a second on the half-hour mark, when Fosu-Mensah steamed into the box to head Morgan Schneiderlin’s diagonal ball against the bar. Rooney was there to tap home the rebound, but saw his effort ruled out for offside.
With half-time approaching, the Cobblers’ first meaningful attack almost resulted in a goal, as former United youth product Kenji Gorre dribbled into the area and drilled a shot towards goal, only for Romero to tip the ball onto the woodwork.
It was a chance that brought the home side to life, and they were awarded a penalty just three minutes later when Daley Blind felled Sam Hoskins in the area. Revell stepped up to coolly dispatch the spot-kick, leaving the Reds with work to do after the break.
Possession: Northampton 23% United 77%
Shots: Northampton 5 United 7
Shots on target: Northampton 2 United 2
Corners: Northampton 3 United 1
After the restart, United came out on the front foot and immediately looked to regain the lead, as Schneiderlin and Memphis both had attempts on goal, before Young’s dangerous cross almost found its way in.
With the scores still level on 55 minutes, Mourinho made an attack-minded double change, as Rashford and Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the action. The Reds so nearly went back in front almost immediately after, but Herrera’s 20-yard drive clipped the post and went behind.
Just as it was beginning to look like United were running out of luck, a strike of real beauty put the Reds in control again. Rashford picked up the ball on the left and teed up Herrera, who wasn’t to be denied for a second time, and smashed the ball past Smith from range.
Rashford then went from provider to scorer on 75 minutes, as Smith made a mess of collecting Herrera’s long ball, allowing the attacker to walk in the simplest of goals, to the delight of the United fans.
The hosts tried to pull a goal back late on through substitute Alfie Potter, but the damage had already been done, and the Reds held out comfortably to get back to winning ways.
Possession: Northampton 25% United 75%
Shots: Northampton 6 United 13
Shots on target: Northampton 2 United 6
Corners: Northampton 5 United 4
Northampton: Smith, Moloney, BuchNorthampton 5 United 3anan, Diamond, Revell, Gorre (Potter 66), McCourt (Richards 73’), Hoskins, Beautyman (O’Toole 54’), Taylor. Subs not used: Cornell, Byrom, Sonupe, Nyatanga.
Booked: McCourt, Potter.
United: Romero, Fosu-Mensah (Rashford 55’), Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Schneiderlin (Fellaini 73’), Carrick, Memphis (Ibrahimovic 55’), Herrera, Young, Rooney. Subs not used: Johnstone, Darmian, Lingard, Mata.
“They fought and they played with their strength. They tried to cause us problems, which they did at times, so it was a difficult match but overall it was a positive performance.” – Jose Mourinho
“We are a squad, we are a team, we lose together and we win together. We played tonight and had a good result.” – Michael Carrick
“The win was very important. When you come to play these kinds of games, it is the game of their lives and it is not easy for us. In the second half we controlled the match completely and we are very happy.” – Ander Herrera