Manchester United will hope to end their run of three consecutive defeats when they face Northampton Town in the EFL Cup third round on Wednesday night.
The Red Devils should triumph against the Sky Bet League One outfit, but know that their opponents will provide them with a tough test after they knocked out fellow Premier League side West Bromwich Albion in the previous round, also at their Sixfields Stadium home ground.
Mourinho to rotate against Northampton
Coming into the game on the back of three successive defeats might play on manager Jose Mourinho’s mind when he makes his team selection, as the Portuguese coach will surely be desperate for a win in this game. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t rotate his side.
The Manchester Evening News has reported that two of Mourinho’s new signings – Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba – as well as David de Gea, will be rested for the cup clash. That should allow Daley Blind, Michael Carrick and Sergio Romero to return the side, though it would be a surprise if they are the only changes from the team that lost 3-1 against Watford on Sunday.
Antonio Valencia has started the season well but isn’t a natural right-back, and Mourinho should give Matteo Darmian – a more natural fit for that role – an opportunity to start when possible. Timothy Fosu-Mensah could also be in contention to play in that position, but might also be considered to play on the opposite side of defence in place of the injured Luke Shaw.
Chris Smalling should be allowed to retain his place in central defence to improve his match fitness, but there could be further changes ahead of him in midfield.
All change in midfield for United?
With Pogba set to be rested and some questioning Marouane Fellaini’s role in the side, Mourinho has an opportunity to start with a new look midfield against Rob Page's Northampton side. Carrick hasn’t featured since the Community Shield win last month, but he should be partnered by Ander Herrera in a two-man pivot. The experienced Englishman and the energetic Spaniard could be just what United need in this potentially tricky away game.
In front of that duo should be fellow Spaniard, Juan Mata. The playmaker started all of United’s first three Premier League wins of the season but was more recently dropped during defeats against Manchester City and Watford – although he did start in the Europa League loss to Feyenoord which came in between those league disappointments.
With Mata being given a chance to play in his natural number ten role, quick and direct players should be positioned around him, as that will give him the best chance to thrive. Jesse Lingard has been left out since playing poorly in the Manchester derby earlier this month but could be reintroduced to the side on the right, whilst Memphis Depay is the obvious choice to start on the opposite flank after Anthony Martial was injured last time out.
In attack, Marcus Rashford should be given another chance to play as the main forward. He didn’t excel in that role against Feyenoord last week, but his contribution against Watford at the weekend should have convinced Mourinho to give the youngster another chance, and deploying Rashford would also allow the manager to hand 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic a rest.
Predicted XI: Romero; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick, Herrera; Lingard, Mata, Memphis; Rashford.