Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho took aim at referee Stuart Attwell for failing to reduce League One Northampton to 10 men after his side ended a three-match losing streak to set up an EFL Cup fourth round tie with rivals Manchester City.
United powered through in the second period with goals from Ander Herrera and substitute Marcus Rashford after veteran Northampton marksman Alex Revell stroked home a penalty to cancel out Michael Carrick’s opener.
But rather than focus on the avoidance of a fourth straight defeat, Mourinho, who opted against conducting a postmatch press conference, instead chose to lambast Attwell for not dismissing Northampton’s Jak McCourt for his crunching tackle on Memphis Depay.
“I should stop speaking about referees’ decisions and just wait for others to speak about it; some with honest vision, some without,” said Mourinho.
“I spoke about the red card because it is really a dangerous situation. I am not talking about the penalty against Manchester City, I am speaking about the situation that could have ended in an important injury.”
United opened the scoring in the 17th minute as Carrick lashed home a side-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area after goalkeeper Adam Smith had picked up a backpass and Wayne Rooney’s subsequent free-kick had rebounded off the Cobblers’ wall.
The last time Northampton reached this stage of the competition in 2010 they beat Liverpool on penalties, and a spot-kick was again pivotal but not before winger Kenji Gorre’s attempt had been flicked onto the crossbar by United stopper Sergio Romero.
Northampton have only lost one league match in the last 32 and levelled shortly before the break as Revell rolled home a penalty after a clumsy Daley Blind challenge on Sam Hoskins.
United restored their lead on 68 minutes as substitute Rashford picked out Herrera, whose sweetly struck first-time shot from the edge of the box skidded beyond Smith.
Rashford’s perseverance wrapped up victory with 15 minutes remaining after refusing to give up on a hopeful punt forward. Despite having no right to win the ball, he nipped in ahead of a hesitant Smith and fired into an empty net.