James Heneghan's Northampton Town v Manchester United preview
Fixture: Northampton Town v Manchester United, EFL Cup round three
Date/time: Wednesday, September 21, 7.45pm kick-off
Forecast: 17C, cloudy
Outs and doubts: Cobblers: Paul Anderson (cup-tied), JJ Hooper (cup-tied): United: Luke Shaw (groin), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh), Anthony Martial (concussion), Phil Jones (knee)
Betting: Northampton 8/1, draw 9/2, Man Utd 1/3
Form guide: Cobblers LWWLDD, United LLLWWW
Likely line-ups: Northampton (4-1-4-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond, Nyatanga, Buchanan; McCourt; Potter, Beautyman, Taylor, Gorre; Revell. United (4-2-3-1): Romero; Darmian, Smalling, Fosu-Mensah, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Carrick; Lingard, Mata, Depay; Rashford
Man in the middle: Stuart Attwell
Last time out: Chesterfield 3 (Wilkinson 2, Donohue) Northampton 1 (Anderson); Watford 3 (Capoue, Zuñiga, Deeney) Manchester United 1 (Rashford)
Most recent meeting: Sunday, January 5, 2004 – Northampton 0 Manchester United 3 (Silvestre, Hargreaves, Forlan)
Record v Man Utd: P4 W0 D1 L3
Opposition view: Juan Mata wrote about tonight’s tie in his weekly blog, saying: “First of all, we visit Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, in our first game of the season in this competition. We are the favourites in this game and we have to deliver, all due respect to the opponent because, despite being in League One, Northampton Town has already knocked out a Premier League side like West Brom. I’m sure the stadium will be packed and they will try to make things difficult for us.”
Cobblers connection: There’s a whole heap of candidates who could fill this slot, take your pick from the likes of Kenji Gorre, Lee Martin, Danny Rose or perhaps current MUTV commentator and former Cobblers boss Paddy Crerand who managed Northampton for a season in the 1970s. But the focus for tonight’s tie is on current Sixfields loanee Gorre who actually began his career at Manchester City Academy before switching across town as a seven-year-old in 2002. He rose through the ranks at United but just failed to make the grade, moving to Swansea City in 2013 before being sent on loan to the Cobblers over the summer.
James Heneghan’s preview: The Cobblers have forged something of a reputation as League Cup giant-killers in recent years but they will need to scale brave new heights if they are to maintain that this evening when the biggest, richest and most decorated club in the land club rock up at Sixfields.
The cameras will be rolling and the house will be packed to the rafters, but Northampton are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion, after all this is a team familiar with upsetting the form book.
Their victory in the previous round ensured the club’s recent love affair with the League Cup continued as West Brom became the ninth higher-ranked team to be knocked out of the competition by the Cobblers in the last six years, following in the footsteps of Wolves, Blackpool, Cardiff, Ipswich, Brighton, Reading, Liverpool and Barnsley.
But the challenge cranks up a notch or two tonight when the mighty Manchester United come to town, led by the self-proclaimed Special One.
That’s not to say, though, that Northampton aren’t capable of another seismic shock similar to the one they caused at Anfield almost exactly six years ago.
Ruthlessly efficient, hard-working and well-drilled; there are many elements of this Cobblers team that would make Jose Mourinho proud.
They are all attributes which Mourinho values highly, and it’s those qualities that will make Northampton hard to beat tonight, especially if they can frustrate their visitors for as long as possible because as mighty as they are in name, this is not a team with the same swagger or aura of previous Manchester United sides.
In fact, United arrive at Sixfields still licking their wounds from a third successive defeat sustained at Vicarage Road on Sunday and whilst a fourth on the bounce appears somewhat improbable, there’s nothing that can be ruled out with this Cobblers team.
The last time Jose Mourinho oversaw three consecutive defeats in a season was all the way back during his time at Porto in 2002, and that wretched run has only served to heighten the importance of tonight’s clash at Sixfields.
Regardless, Mourinho has always taken the competition seriously so we can expect to see a relatively strong Manchester United line-up, although their reserve team isn’t exactly shoddy and is almost always guaranteed to be bristling with full internationals.
The likes of Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Memphis Depay and Marcus Rashford all likely to grace the Sixfields turf having hardly featured this term.
In addition, Mourinho may also use this game as an opportunity to hand game-time to some of United’s talented young guns, such as Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe who are both tipped for big things.
There will be no Sixfields appearance for the injured duo Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial but United come with an abundance of quality and Mourinho will undoubtedly view this competition as a chance to get his first piece of silverware since taking the reigns at Old Trafford.
After three years in the doldrums, Mourinho is the latest man tasked with the challenge of returning United to the glory days and if anyone has the self-confidence and ego to do so, surely he is the one.
Mourinho’s opposite number this evening, Rob Page, has no major injury concerns but Paul Anderson and JJ Hooper are both cup-tied, meaning he’s likely to field a very similar side to the one which stunned West Brom in the second round.
It was that victory which set up tonight’s tantalising showdown and after all the highs and lows of the past 12 months, this is a fixture which is just reward for a club that’s been through it all.
And whilst it’s true that this is an occasion to be cherished and savoured because clubs like Manchester United to not come to town every day, it doesn’t mean that Northampton should lose sight of the task at hand.
Indeed, the Cobblers won’t roll over for anyone, not even Mourinho’s men. Whatever happens, a famous night beckons.
Prediction: Northampton Town 1 Manchester United 3