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Manchester United reached the fourth round of the 2019/20 Carabao Cup, but only after beating League One side Rochdale 5-3 on penalties at Old Trafford on Wednesday night after playing to a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes.
Daniel James scored the winner in the shootout to secure the Red Devils a place in the next round and ensure they avoided another setback after the 2-0 defeat to West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday.
Mason Greenwood’s second-half goal had put the Red Devils in a commanding position, but 16-year-old Luke Matheson’s equaliser ensured the visitors stayed in the tie.
Not for the first time this season, United lacked inspiration in attacking areas, with the returning Pogba struggling to exert himself. Jesse Lingard also struggled to pick the right passes to set up precocious frontman Mason Greenwood.
Andreas Pereira was another of the creative talents failing to impress for the hosts:
The Red Devils resorted to letting centre-back Marcos Rojo carry the attacking goal. He sent a host of shots toward the Rochdale goal, but none of them looked like seriously troubling goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.
A goalless first half merely continued a worrying pattern for United on home soil:
United’s profligacy was nearly punished shortly after the break when Callum Champs got free but saw his effort cleared off the line by Wan-Bissaka. It was a reminder to the hosts of the need to up their game against lower-league opposition.
Seeking to inspire such a change, Solskjaer brought on Daniel James for Tahith Chong. The winger wasted no time playing in Greenwood, but he saw his attempt saved.
Greenwood didn’t have to wait long to find the right finish, though, beating Sanchez to the bottom corner in the 68th minute. The 17-year-old found the net on his last start against Astana in the UEFA Europa League and is making a strong case for being United’s most-reliable finisher.Greenwood’s conversion should have been the start of a goal rush from United, but instead Rochdale hit back. Oliver Rathbone, who was pulling the creative strings for the visitors, picked out Matheson with a terrific cross, and the youngster made no mistake.
Pogba and Greenwood tried to get the lead back, but the latter dragged his shot inches wide. United didn’t create a better chance during the closing minutes, condemning Solskjaer’s men to the lottery of a shoot-out from 12 yards.
Sergio Romero saved from Jimmy Keohane, but the pressure was still on James after Aaron Wilbraham had found the net. Fortunately for United, James held his nerve to continue a terrific start to his career at Old Trafford.
The 21-year-old is perhaps the lone ray of hope in what remains a frustrating period of transition for the Red Devils.