Manchester United pulled through with a 3-0 victory in the third round of the Carabao Cup. While getting off to a slow start may have worried some, the squad showed resolve and came out of the 90 minutes victorious.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made 10 changes from the side that was handed an embarrassing loss at Old Trafford against Crystal Palace. While rotation was expected, the mass rotation could have been considered interesting. With a need to get top players into shape while not having a long preseason, many figured OGS would keep some regulars in the lineup to get them minutes/confidence against a lower side.
A long awaited United debut was handed to Dean Henderson between the sticks, while Donny van de Beek made his first start after a strong debut against Crystal Palace. The only member of the starting XI from the weekend that made the starting lineup today was the captain, Harry Maguire.
United started in control out of the gates and seemed to be going right after Championship side Luton. Mata, who got the start today had a couple attempts within the first 15 minutes, one of which requiring a save from the Luton keeper. Danger struck in the 19th minute when a Luton shot was deflected off of Eric Bailly and just past Henderson’s left sided post.
As the half progressed, the opportunities seemed to be far and less between. Nightmares of the Crystal Palace loss surely started to creep into the minds of fans as they saw their side struggle to find a breakthrough against what would be considered a lower-level opponent.
Then, just on the brink of halftime, a spark was lit. Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata were flying around the pitch creating chances. Boom, just like that in the 44th minute Brandon Williams gets taken out inside the box for a United penalty. Mata stepped to the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way to give United a 1-0 lead before the half.
No halftime subs for OGS today. However, the second half started much like the 1st half was playing out. United in control but failing to find that last pass or piece of quality to put the ball in the back of the net. Shots kept coming from Lingard, Ighalo, and Matic, but not many truly seemed to test the Luton keeper.
Momentum was surely switched when OGS went to the bench to bring on the likes of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Bruno Fernandes in the 78th minute. The energy was immediately felt by the teams with everyone on the pitch starting to buzz after balls and make more attacking runs.
Luton’s big chance came with nine minutes left in regulation, when off a set piece a ball was driven to the back post for a header causing Henderson to dive for the save. The danger was not gone as the the ball as pinged back towards the United goal but saved off the line by Eric Bailly.
And just like that, after an inviting pass from from Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford was able to get a nice first touch past the Luton defense and tuck away his first goal of the 2020 season in the 88th minute. Not just four minutes later in the 92nd minute Greenwood too joined the party tucking in his own goal into the far post to make the final scoreline 3-0 United.
Although the final scoreline reads 3-0, the lack of finishing quality is certainly something to keep an eye on. Henderson had a strong debut with a couple world class saves which is surely going to ramp up the heat on David De Gea for the #1 position. Eric Bailly was also a bright spot in this match, looking confident and quick on his feet. Just the fact that he was able to play a full 90 minutes was impressive enough.
Donny van de Beek was again looking sharp flying from box to box and creating chances for his teammates around him. If nothing else, he proved that his debut was no fluke in form and that United really is getting a talent with this young Dutchman. It will be telling to see how OGS choosing to use him going forward whether off the bench or if he can find a spot for him in the starting XI going forward.
Finally, Rashford and Greenwood getting off the bench and into the scoresheet has to be relieving to United fans. Along with Bruno, they brought energy and pace to the pitch that had been lacking from the squad before they were brought on. Many speculated that those players should be starting in order to get their form/confidence up but after what we saw in limited action today, there is much to be encouraged about heading into the weekend for the United headline players.
There is still much to be cleaned up but a 3-0 victory will be taken every time.
Next up, Premier League match September 26th against Brighton