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Sunday 22 April 2018

United expected bumps in the road with Mourinho but victory vital at Northampton

Jose Mourinho's Manchester United have lost three straight matches
Jose Mourinho's Manchester United have lost three straight matches

Jose Mourinho's Manchester United head to Northampton looking to avoid the ignominy of a fourth straight loss and an embarrassing EFL Cup exit.

Following Louis van Gaal's largely frustrating reign, the Portuguese's arrival, along with some big-name acquisitions, brought a feelgood factor back to Old Trafford.

Victory in the Community Shield was followed by three successive Premier League victories, but things have gone awry since returning from the international break.

The galling 2-1 derby defeat at home to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City was compounded by United's Europa League opener ending in a 1-0 loss at Feyenoord.

A third defeat followed as Watford triumphed 3-1 at Vicarage Road on Sunday, seeing Mourinho lose three competitive games in a row for the first time since August 2006.

That run has increased the pressure heading into an otherwise nondescript EFL Cup third-round trip to Northampton on Wednesday - hardly what had been expected after a positive summer and start to the season.

The group were recently said to be standing taller playing under Mourinho and with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the Portuguese even said to have had a "hypnotic" presence.

However, Mourinho's criticism of Shaw for his positioning as Camilo Zuniga re-established Watford's lead on Sunday is reported to have shocked some team-mates.

It is something the England left-back is understood to be irritated about, especially given the manager had indicated such comments about individuals would be kept in-house.

Criticism of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard after the derby flew in the face of that, but United have expected such controversies and are relaxed about such flash points given how Sir Alex Ferguson ruffled feathers during his tenure.

United are understandably keen for a period of stability after a successful summer, but happiness will be brought by recapturing the Premier League.

The three-game losing streak was described as a "little crisis" by Marouane Fellaini and far from ideal in terms of that title tilt, with restoring a winning mentality key to a club synonymous with success.

Changes are expected at Sixfields and large question marks remain over the availability of Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial, with the latter involved in a nasty-looking clash on Sunday - a match in which Shaw sustained a slight groin tear.

Whoever lines up at Northampton, they and Mourinho can ill afford another bad result.

Press Association

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