Northampton 1-3 Manchester United: Jose Mourinho avoids fourth straight defeat
By Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 22/09/16 6:30am
Manchester United overcame a scare from Northampton Town to win 3-1 at Sixfields and progress into the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
After three straight defeats, all eyes were on Jose Mourinho's men to respond on Wednesday night and they got off to the perfect start when Michael Carrick (17) curled home, but Alex Revell (42) levelled the game from the spot just before half-time.
United had been eliminated to lower-division opponents in five of the last 10 seasons in this competition but Ander Herrera (67) and Marcus Rashford (74) ensured they avoided embarrassment on this occasion.
Next up for United in the fourth-round is local rivals Manchester City, where Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will renew their rivalry for the second time this season.
Mourinho rang the changes in order to get a response from the recent defeats - nine to be exact, with only Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Eric Bailly given the night off.
Wayne Rooney started as the lone striker for the first time since May.
Mourinho had called for his captain to silence his critics with goals, but Rooney looked short of confidence. None more so than when firing wide from eight yards out on seven minutes after some neat approach play from Ashley Young.
As expected the visitors dominated the ball as Carrick revelled on his return to the side in the quarterback role at the base of the midfield.
His performance merited a goal and he got it on 17 minutes.
Northampton goalkeeper Adam Smith inexplicably decided to handle Matty Taylor's back-pass and the referee had no choice to award an indirect free-kick inside the area. Rooney's low attempt was blocked but Carrick confidently smashed home the rebound from 18 yards right into the top corner.
Rooney had the ball in the net on 31 minutes after Timothy Fosu-Mensah headed against the crossbar - but it was correctly chalked off for offside.
Northampton burst into life on 38 minutes when former United youth player Kenji Gorre cut inside Fosu-Mensah from the left but his shot clipped the bar and went to safety.
This signalled a spell of pressure on the visitors goal and Northampton were awarded a penalty of 42 minutes when Daley Blind left a lazy leg in on Sam Hoskins inside the area.
Revell stepped up and sent Sergio Romero the wrong way to send the Sixfields Stadium into raptures - the emotion on his face was clear to see as he ran off celebrating.
The Sky Bet League One side dared to dream after the break with United's tendency to concede sloppy goals this season, but in truth, they posed little threat.
Jak McCourt could have been sent-off on 47 minutes for a scissor-like tackle from behind on Memphis Depay, but the referee only awarded a yellow card despite protests from United's players.
Herrera went close to giving his team the lead on 59 minutes but his 25-yard effort clipped the post and went wide. He only had to wait eight minutes before getting another chance - and he took it.
Mourinho decided to throw on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford, which afforded more space for Herrera in midfield.
Rashford held the ball up in the area and slid the ball back for the midfielder to hammer home a strike from the edge of the area.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the hosts and United took full advantage when Rashford chased down a lost cause which caused Smith to make a mess of his clearance. The England striker poked the ball past him and rolled the ball into the empty net.
The young United striker has now been involved in more goals than any other Man Utd player since his debut (11 goals, 3 assists).
The future looks very bright for the 18-year-old and Mourinho will be hoping his team follow suit.