Oh, how they must have dreaded coming here. Manchester United, that is. Not Rochdale. No, Rochdale thoroughly enjoyed their big night under the bright lights.
Rochdale, who languish in the third tier’s bottom half. Rochdale, who only have one fit central defender. Rochdale, who shipped six at Peterborough earlier this month.
That United required penalties was frankly embarrassing and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stony expression said it all, the grim acceptance that standards somehow keep slipping. They squirmed through, Daniel James converting the winning penalty after the unfortunate Jimmy Keohane missed.
Man United advance to fourth round of the Carabao Cup after beating Rochdale on penalties
United goalkeeper Sergio Romero saves a penalty from Jimmy Keohane in the shootout
Daniel James stepped up to score the winning penalty to send United into the next round
Rochdale’s players can’t hide their disappointment after being dumped out on penalties
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
MANCHESTER UNITED: (4-2-3-1) Romero 6; Wan-Bissaka 6, Jones 5 (Williams 46, 6), Tuanzebe 7, Rojo 6; Fred 4, Pogba 5; Pereira 5, Lingard 6 (Mata 85), Chong 5 (James 60, 6); Greenwood 7.5
SUBS NOT USED: Grant (GK); Lindelof, Garner, McTominay
GOALS: Greenwood (68)
BOOKINGS: Williams (72)
COACH: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 5
ROCHDALE: (4-2-3-1) Sanchez 8; Matheson 9, Keohane 7.5, McNulty 7, Norrington-Davies 8; Williams 7, Morley 7; Dooley 8 (Wilbraham 74, 6), Camps 7, Rathbone 8.5 (Andrew 81); Henderson 7.5 (Ryan 90)
SUBS NOT USED: Lynch (GK); Bradley, Tavares, Thomas
GOALS: Matheson (76)
COACH: Brian Barry-Murphy 8
REFEREE: John Brooks 7
MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Matheson (Rochdale)
VENUE: Old Trafford
United looked like relying on a 17-year-old to bail them out for the second time in under a week.
Mason Greenwood will become a superstar, his dead-eyed finishing something to behold, and thought his second goal for the club on 68 minutes had settled this.
But a general mist has once again descended on this stadium and United, for now at least, cannot seem to see a way through it. Rochdale levelled it eight minutes later when a ball popped up for 16-year-old Luke Matheson, whose volley into the ground flew past Sergio Romero and stunned everyone – including those 6,500 jubilant travelling supporters in one corner of Old Trafford.
Solskjaer spoke of the impact winning this competition back in 2006 had for that group of players after a painful transitional period.
‘You could see that it was such an important step for the club in restoring the winning culture,’ the manager said.
‘To get a first taste of winning a trophy was huge. Within a couple of years that was one of the best teams United ever had.’
Sadly the same could not be said of the club’s class of 2017, who lifted the Carabao Cup in Jose Mourinho’s first season. We all know what happened then and Solskjaer finding himself in situ now is a product of that.
Mason Greenwood celebrates breaking the deadlock for Manchester United against Rochdale
The youngster cut on to his favoured left foot before drilling a low shot past Sanchez in goal
Greenwood (left) slides on his knees to celebrate along with Brandon Williams (right)
Rochdale’s 16-year-old right back Luke Matheson celebrates scoring the equaliser
Matheson burst into the box to volley in the equaliser to send the away support into a frenzy
The teenager (left) passionately celebrates as Rochdale level the scores at Old Trafford
Juan Mata – SCORED
Andres Pereira – SCORED
Fred – SCORED
Mason Greenwood – SCORED
Daniel James – SCORED
Calvin Andrew – SCORED
Jimmy Keohane – MISSED
Aaron Morley – SCORED
Aaron Wilbraham – SCORED
What they do have is young promise. Top of the list is Axel Tuanzebe, the 21-year-old central defender thrown the armband by Solskjaer ahead of the returning Paul Pogba. Fittingly, it was a year to the day since Mourinho stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy before the embarrassing penalty shootout defeat by Derby County at this stage.
More strikingly than Pogba’s regrettable anniversary was the faith placed in Tuanzebe, who Aston Villa were desperate to re-sign on loan. He became United’s youngest captain since Norman Whiteside in 1985. Whiteside had already starred at a World Cup for Northern Ireland by that point.
Tuanzebe, playing against his hometown club, spared the blushes of Fred early on. Former United academy graduate Oliver Rathbone hassled the Brazil international, picking his pocket, and Rochdale were suddenly three on two and countering. Tuanzebe mopped up imperiously.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka produced a brilliant goal-line clearance to deny Rochdale the opener
Luke Matheson can’t believe that Rochdale aren’t ahead after they’re denied by Wan-Bissaka
Pogba heads over a glorious chance in the first half as he struggles to keep his header down
Pogba hugs the post in disbelief after missing a brilliant chance to break the deadlock
Other academy products joined him, United fielding six in their starting XI and another three on the bench, including the left back Brandon Williams, called up for the first time.
Although Mason Greenwood, 17, led the line, the core of Solskjaer’s side had experience. Phil Jones, Pogba and Jesse Lingard played through the spine; United struggled to play through Rochdale.
Greenwood drew a smart stop from Robert Sanchez, on loan from Brighton, after Rochdale’s only recognised centre half Jim McNulty attempted a ludicrous offside trap. The best opportunities came following mistakes from the minnows, Pogba ghosting off the back of his marker to head tamely over from Greenwood’s wicked centre.
United went in at half-time without scoring and, amazingly, with Marcos Rojo having had five attempts on goal. Perhaps that in itself told a story, Rojo’s only worthwhile effort a header at the end of a sharp counter-attack from a Rochdale corner. Even against lower league opposition, they seem more at ease without the ball.
There were commendable performances by most in blue and black, Equally, it ought to be noted that Matheson was given the run around by Manchester City’s relatively unknown winger Jayden Braaf only a matter of weeks ago in a Football League Trophy fixture.
Rochdale’s Oliver Rathbone (right) sends Fred tumbling to the floor during the first half
Pogba skies a shot over as Rochdale’s Jimmy Keohane tries to get in the way to make a block
The World Cup-winning Frenchman bites his shirt in frustration during a goalless first half
Tahith Chong should have been licking his lips but, to Matheson’s immense credit, he was forced to eventually switch wings.
Williams – who has earned rave reviews by academy staff – emerged for his first-team tunnel at the break, replacing Jones, although his name was not even included on the matchday programme. Andreas Pereira, who had earlier stung Sanchez’s palms, almost saw a hopeful effort deflect in, yet United’s fortunes barely improved.
In fact, Rochdale should have led. Really, really should have led. Matheson was involved, twinkling down the right, finding Rathbone.
The midfielder danced his way to the byline, no United player mustering a challenge, and found Callum Camps bang in front of goal. Camps had to score, goal gaping, only for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to miraculously hook off the line.
Greenwood always looked the most threatening for United, thundering another effort at Sanchez, before finally breaking Dale resistance with 22 minutes remaining. Williams buccaneered forward, Lingard played a simple pass and Greenwood did the rest, chopping back on his marker and fizzing into the near post.
Little did they know that Matheson would be waiting at the back post eight minutes later. There was nothing United could do on their own line to save that one.
Wan-Bissaka looks to take on Rathbone as United tried to break down their opponents
Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy looks on as his side battle it out at Old Trafford