Manchester United 1-1 Rochdale: Penalties needed to send stale Reds through 
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring his teams first goal of the game with team mate Brandon Williams during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Rochdale AFC at Old Trafford on September 25, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

It required penalties for Manchester United to finally overcome League One Rochdale in the EFL Cup Third Round.

Questions will be asked about United's meagre performance in front of their own fans against a mid-table club from England's third division. The truth is that Rochdale were valiant and played well but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Reds were seriously poor.

They avoided the most humiliating result of the decade by the skin of their teeth and it's hardly a confidence boost after two league wins all season.

The muted celebrations of their players after a shoot-out win was telling. Sergio Romero denied Jimmy Keohane in the only missed spot-kick.

17-year-old Mason Greenwood gave United the lead with a composed second-half finish. Greenwood has now netted twice in two starts at Old Trafford this week. His goal was a rare showing of quality in an otherwise drab performance from a stale United.

Luke Matheson found his dreams fulfilled when he equalised for the Dale in front of the travelling fans but it wasn't enough for his boyhood club.

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Story of the game

It was evident a long day was in store for Solskjaer United's after a quarter of an hour, much like in the 1-0 victory over Astana last Thursday.

Brazilian duo Fred and Andreas Pereira were two of many gifting possession to a fired-up Rochdale. Axel Tuanzebe dealt with two nervy moments in his own half on the day he captained the first team at the age of 21. He's now captained every age group at United from under-9s right up to the senior side.

It was telling that it was Tuanzebe's name, and that of Greenwood and Dan James, being sung throughout the game. The more senior players at United have so little connection with the support at Old Trafford after six poor seasons.

United created a multitude of half-chances but found Rochdale goalkeeper Robert Sanchez equal at every time of asking. Marcos Rojo was denied twice with headers inside the box. Pereira, too, but with two drives from outside the area.

Pogba had United's best chance of the first half and should have scored when he met a perfectly-struck Greenwood cross. Instead he headed onto the roof of the net.

United's chances were produced from hit and hope balls. They look a team bereft of confidence, and it's no surprise after five wins from 19 games since their magical night in Paris back in March.

Whether it was complacency or simply that lack of confidence, Soslkjaer's side were constantly loose in possession. Rochdale took advantage with a couple of threatening counter-attacks in the opening stages. 16-year-old Luke Matheson stormed down the right side from defence while keeping Tahith Chong under lock until he was subbed off after half-time.

Still, though, United should have gone into the break two goals up. Late chances saw Sanchez deny Greenwood well after a one-on-one. Jesse Lingard headed over just as Pogba had done earlier in the half.

Solskjaer made changes at half-time with Phil Jones struggling with injury. Brandon Williams made his debut as Rojo shifted into centre-back and Pereira and Chong swapped wings. It worked to an extent. United pushed forward more regularly and with more directness.

Rochdale's Camps came closer, though. Only an acrobatic, De Gea-esque flick of a leg from Wan-Bissaka prevented his effort from crossing the goalline.

Greenwood saw two shots blocked, one after he chopped back and forth inside the area well. Space in the game grew for him after Dan James replaced Chong just before the hour mark.

James pulled United forward with his pace on the counter and lay off for Greenwood. Sanchez, once more, was equal to the young Englishman.

It was a matter of time before he finally found the better of the League One goalkeeper. Greenwood is an electric talent and one with a bright future.

His former under-18s teammate Williams pounced on a loose ball high up the pitch. Pereira and Lingard came with him and brought Greenwood into play on the right side. He paused, brought the ball onto his left foot and finally beat Sanchez before running into the Stretford End with Williams. 

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If a 17-year-old netting at Old Trafford wasn't enough, it wasn't very long before Matheson trumped Greenwood's magical moment. The 16-year-old has been scouted extensively by United's academy team in previous years. He's no stranger. But as he came in from the right flank, he escaped the attention of Williams and scruffily met the looped cross of Ollie Rathbone. Tuanzebe tried to head clear but, standing behind his goalline, the ball was already in the net and schoolboy Matheson was running towards the away fans section in delirium.

Rochdale didn't crumble after. Their fans found their voices in the Theatre of Dreams and they kept their nerve. Wan-Bissaka should have regained United's lead when he met a Dan James cross at the far post. Fred tested Sanchez and forced a corner, but United, even with the introduction of Juan Mata, couldn't muster another goal. They'd found it hard enough to score just the one.

Even when Dan James was faced with a half-open goal from four yards, the bounce of the ball and the pressure of goalkeeper Sanchez forced his shot over the bar. A strong effort from Pereira was pushed out by Sanchez. The Spaniard was Rochdale's hero as much as young Matheson.

Straight to penalties, United's youngsters held their nerve. Pereira and Greenwood scored after Mata and Fred. Jimmy Keohane missed Rochdale's second as Romero pushed it wide. Dan James secured the underwhelming victory for United with a composed finish for the fifth penalty.

Takeaways from the game

United utterly bereft of confidence

The Reds look down on the floor. Their touches are poor and passes are going astray. They get frustrated and shoot from long-range and slide into challenges. But what they don't do is play quality football. Or effective football.

Solskjaer has to give confidence to these players just as he did when he arrived as temporary manager in December last year. If he can't, it may not be long before Woodward's public patience wears thin in the club legend.

Rochdale impressive

Displays such as these from lower league sides rarely translate into league performances, but Rochdale were good. Goalkeeper Sanchez was excellent and 16-year-old Matheson was already impressing in defence before his second-half equaliser. They deserve credit for a good performance all-round. 

United's finishing poor

Perhaps it links to their ground-level confidence, but United can't finish. Rashford and Martial are out of the side, but they are suffering from it, too. Greenwood eventually found the goal for United after three good chances. Pogba and Lingard headed over when they should have buried it and there other glaring misses from Pereira, James and Wan-Bissaka.

Though it was a bad performance, it could have been comfortable for Solskjaer's team if they'd put away the two clear-cut chances in the first half and three or four in the second.

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