Thursday 18 January 2018

Jose relief as United progress

Mourinho sends in the cavalry to squeeze past Northampton and set up clash with City

Manchester United substitute Marcus Rashford (left) celebrates with Ander Herrera in the League Cup third round win at Northampton
Manchester United substitute Marcus Rashford (left) celebrates with Ander Herrera in the League Cup third round win at Northampton

Jose Mourinho's Manchester United ended a three-match losing streak and progressed to the League Cup fourth round with a timely, if at times uncomfortable, win at Northampton.

Community Shield glory and three straight Premier League wins brought the feel-good factor back to Old Trafford, yet things have gone awry since the international break.

Mourinho's men arrived at Sixfields looking to avoid the ignominy of a fourth straight loss and managed just that, running out 3-1 victors as their quality eventually saw off the spirited League One hosts.

Northampton had looked to be facing a long night when Michael Carrick capped his first appearance since the Community Shield with a sumptuous strike, but the hosts upped the ante as half-time approached and drew a penalty out of Daley Blind.

Alex Revell converted to send a record Sixfields crowd wild, but United regained their advantage through Ander Herrera's thumping effort after 68 minutes.

Substitute Marcus Rashford - brought on early in the second half with Zlatan Ibrahimovic - wrapped up the victory after Adam Smith, much to the goalkeeper's embarrassment, failed to deal with a simple long ball.

It was a comfortable end to what had been at times a nervy night in Northampton, where Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling were the only survivors from the weekend defeat to Watford.

Comfortable in possession and enjoying freedom down the flanks, it was little surprise to see United take a 17th minute lead - just the way it came about.

Referee Stuart Attwell awarded an indirect free-kick after goalkeeper Smith inexplicably picked up a backpass. Rooney's attempt from the set piece was blocked, but Carrick was on hand to turn home superbly.

The midfielder's first goal since March 2015 seemed to relax the visitors but perhaps too much. While the offside flag prevented Rooney extending United's lead after a Timothy Fosu-Mensah header hit the crossbar, Northampton were becoming an increasing threat.

Zander Diamond headed over from the resulting corner as Rob Page's side pushed for a leveller that would arrive after Blind brought down Sam Hoskins in the box.

Veteran striker Revell capitalised, sending Sergio Romero the wrong way and the home fans delirious.

United emerged from the break strongly but were struggling to threaten Smith, leading Mourinho to bring on Rashford and Zlatan Ibrahimovic within 10 minutes of the restart.

Herrera hit the post from distance soon after and found the net next time he tried his luck from range, meeting a Rashford pass with a low strike that flew past Smith in front of the 944 visiting fans.

There was little the Northampton goalkeeper could do about that, but his embarrassment was clear as United racked up a third.

Rashford chased Herrera's hacked clearance - a lost cause that became a gift as Smith hesitated and missed the ball, allowing the substitute to smash into an empty net.

Smith denied Marouane Fellaini as United chased a fourth but it was Northampton that ended the match on top, albeit unable to reduce the deficit.

Afterwards, Carrick said: "People need to calm down. We win as a team and we lose as a team."

Mourinho added: "It was difficult as I was expecting. The substitution were just a contribution. They fought, they played with their strength. But overall it was a good performance."

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