Another run out for the kids and fringe players in the Carabao Cup.
Just like the Europa League, the Carabao Cup tie against Rochdale provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the chance to give Manchester United’s youngsters and fringe players valuable minutes.
Whilst what we saw at Old Trafford against FC Astana was hardly a convincing and cohesive display, we’re likely to see a similar sort of team line up on Wednesday night against the League One side.
That side, though full of United’s current crop of academy graduates, was heavily backed by some of Solskjaer’s experienced but out of favour players. The Norwegian really needs them to step up and put in a dominate display in the Carabao Cup to help ease the fallout from Sunday’s defeat to West Ham United. That job could be made easier with one of United’s biggest stars involved.
Solskjaer has indicated that Paul Pogba will get some minutes against Brian Barry-Murphy’s side in order to get his fitness up to the required level before the Monday night date with Arsenal. It’s likely that the Frenchman will come in for Nemanja Matic from the start and captain the side, possibly alongside a fellow academy product in James Garner. Garner missed the Under 23s defeat to Aston Villa on Monday, presumably with a view to involving him against Rochdale.
At the back, it will be interesting to see if Phil Jones is even able to keep his place in the second string. The centre-back cut a frustrated figure in the stands at the London Stadium and appeared to make a sly comment that didn’t impress Ed Woodward. (Make up your own mind about that by searching Jones’ name on Twitter and give it your best shot at lip-reading).
If Jones is to feature, it will probably be an entirely unchanged back line from the Astana game with Axel Tuanzebe stepping back in to face his hometown club. Diogo Dalot and Marcos Rojo will probably start in the full-back berths with Luke Shaw still not fit enough to take part. Sergio Romero should continue in goal as he usually does in the cup competitions.
Unsurprisingly after the summer’s transfer activity, United’s issues come further. The worst has happened for Solskjaer as both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford find themselves sidelined; the two players the manager is relying on for goals this season. That means that Mason Greenwood is the only viable option to lead the line, and even he might not be fit after falling ill over the weekend.
Without these options, United finished Sunday’s game with Jesse Lingard up front – there’s a chance that he has to fill that role from the start on Wednesday night if none of the others pull through. If they do, Lingard is still likely to start in order to attempt to gain some form. The England forward usually thrives and is relied upon the big games so Solskjaer will want him feeling confident ahead of the Arsenal game.
Alongside him, behind whoever is up top, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong should get another start. Both showed flashes against FC Astana, Gomes more so, though as Chong was subject to the odd groan for giving away possession. We have to keep persevering with the youngsters, though. They all need to get used to playing in front of the bigger crowds as it looks increasingly likely that they will be called upon frequently this season with the United squad so thin.
This is a game that, by all accounts, Manchester United should stroll through but things are never that straight forward in cup competitions, especially with weakened sides. Tottenham have already fallen victim to lower league opposition, United have to avoid doing the same otherwise the dissenters will grow in voice.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Rochdale