Northampton Town vs Manchester United
Date: Wednesday, 21 September, 2016
Time: 19:45 BST
Venue: Sixfields Stadium
One, two, three, four? Could United face their fourth defeat in 12 days at Sixfields? After the performance against Watford on the weekend, it’s difficult to be optimistic.
But looking forward, where do United go from here? Chris Smalling said after the loss to Feyenoord last Thursday that the players needed to ‘stand up and be counted,’ and that didn’t happen against Watford.
Jose Mourinho evidently has a problem on his hands. Does he change the system or the personnel?
There’s no player that epitomises this debate better than Paul Pogba. Mourinho could choose to not select him after a few ineffective performances, or he could unleash him from the shackles he’s been playing with in midfield for the majority of his second spell at United.
United look shot for confidence, and Mourinho’s managerial skills will be tested to the maximum. How does he get the best out of these players? Obviously, he has a talented group of players to work with, and we can go down the moral debate of they shouldn’t need any extra motivation to want to succeed.
However, it seems they do, and Mourinho has to provide that for his players otherwise United losing their fourth game in a row will be the least of United and Mourinho’s problems.
In Northampton, they face a side who are full of confidence after their promotion from League 2. The Cobblers also lose very rarely. Despite being 11th in England’s third division, they’ve only lost one game so far this season.
It’d be no surprise to see Northampton sit back and attempt to frustrate United, who’ve found being creative and excitingly unpredictable awkwardly difficult in their last three games.
But this is where Mourinho will earn his managerial appraisals if he can turn this rut around. Yes, it may seem a small game, but in context of a season, it’s massive and Mourinho will know that.
If United lose once again, objectives could be reset in the Premier League to a top four finish once again, the players will continue to lose confidence and their inconsistent form of the last three seasons could continue for the rest of the season.
Here’s hoping Mourinho will see sense. Here’s hoping he’ll play his best players in their best positions, here’s hoping he doesn’t start the captain based on his reputation instead of his form, here’s hoping United will see this nightmare run come to an end against Northampton on Wednesday evening.
United full-back Luke Shaw could be a doubt after picking up a groin tear against Watford. Anthony Martial is also a doubt with a head injury, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has a thigh problem.
Northampton will be without Paul Anderson as he’s cup-tied after playing for Bradford City in an earlier round.
Who to look out for
Alex Revell has four goals so far this season, with three coming in League 2 and one in the cup. The 33-year-old is an experienced striker and has said to his regional paper, ‘For me scoring against them (United) would be one of the best things you can ask for, so I’ll be trying for it.’
Man United: Romero, Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo; Herrera, Schneiderlin, Pogba; Mata, Rashford, Zlatan
Northampton Town: Smith, Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; Beautyman, McCourt, Taylor, O’Toole; Revell, Gorre