On the back of a disastrous performance against Crystal Palace last weekend, Manchester United had a chance for redemption in the league cup against Championship side, Luton Town. A lot of pressure was on this match after the lacklustre and unfit performance against the Eagles. However, it was also a chance for some players to impress and push for first team places.
Manchester United made ten changes to face Luton Town. Maguire was the only survivor of the league game. Dean Henderson earned his first senior appearance for Manchester United with De Gea rested. Nemanja Matic missed the match but started alongside Fred as the pivot. Van De Beek got his first start for United with a heavily-rotated front three of Lingard, Mata and Ighalo.
Starting XI: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Williams, Matic, Fred, Mata, Van De Beek, Lingard, Ighalo
Manchester United started sharply despite the heavy rotation and forced Shea into a great save from Mata’s clever effort. Mata continued to pull the strings and lively performances from Van De Beek and Lingard masked an overall sluggish first half yet again for United.
Luton did grow into the first half and, while they failed to register a shot on target, they caused problems down the right hand side with the overlap and put in some excellent crosses but did not have the numbers to test Dean Henderson at that point.
It looked like United would go into the break goalless but quality at the end proved the difference. A fantastic ball from Juan Mata and a great run from Van De Beek split the defence and started a good chance but a deflected clearance found Brandon Williams who won a penalty against George Moncur. Juan Mata stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to score his 49th United goal.
Certainly not the best football but an improvement and quality when it mattered as United went in ahead.
United started the second half dominantly but with no real purpose to get the second. Matic and Van De Beek tested the goalkeeper once again but he dealt with the chances comfortably. As the half grew on, Luton once again grew into the game and started to create chances.
The best came late, on as a set-piece found Lockyer and a strong header was clawed away excellently by Dean Henderson. The defender had a second chance but Bailly bravely cleared the ball off the line. United acted with purpose and brought on the trio of Fernandes, Rashford and Greenwood to kill the game off. Luton found another chance to equalise down the left but an amazing recovery run from Eric Bailly kept United ahead.
United kept ahead and killed the game off with two clinical moves. Fantastic play from United lead to Greenwood holding off Norrington-Davies before backheeling the ball into Rashford’s path who scored effortlessly past Shea for his first goal of the season. Again, United broke through with just a minute to go as Fernandes found Greenwood with ease and the number 11 drove into the box and calmly passed the ball into the net for his first of the season.
Overall, United still look unfit and not quite ready to have begun the campaign. Regardless, the squad had enough quality to win the game albeit demonstrating it in fragments. Mata and Van De Beek were excellent all game and both Matic and Fred controlled the match in the second half. Bailly made a statement to the manager as he seems to compliment Maguire well. If he can stay fit, this could be a big season for him. When the subs came on it did make a difference. All three were involved in the second and third goals and will hope to keep it up against Brighton. One negative would be that United still look weak to the counter as highlighted by Jamie Carragher. Hopefully the squad keeps this momentum going and gets fitter and stronger ahead of a tough fixture against Brighton.