MK Dons vs Manchester United League Cup match report: Louis van Gaal is humiliated after Jonny Evans' error sparks drubbing
MK Dons 4 Manchester United 0: New low as manger fields team of youngsters and players who seem to be on their way out of Old Trafford
Out of the League Cup before Manchester City have even entered it, with a Champions League draw 48 hours from now in which they will play no part. City's Edin Dzeko tweeting “ha ha ha.” The size of the black pit which is enveloping Manchester United appears to be bottomless, though it is hard to conceive that things can get worse than this.
It was a defeat for which Louis van Gaal must carry some degree of personal responsibility. When Liverpool played Notts County at the same stage of the League Cup last season they played a first team, knowing the potentially cavernous, empty weeks ahead. Van Gaal dispensed with game-changing players and instead watched a youthful defence submit itself to carnage - erring again and again to deliver United, Champions League finalists a mere three years ago, to a new and desperate low. Van Gaal defended himself against criticism - citing nine injuries and Sunday's recent Premier League duties - but the argument wore thin. United have so many free weeks this season that the League Cup was something to be embraced.
The defeat requires a little perspective. It was a group of predominantly young players who capitulated; the hammering of an elite group would have been worse. But in the carefully argued, garrulous case van Gaal made as to why his team's defeat was “no shock” we heard a man who seemed as out of touch with fans' expectations of United as David Moyes often was. The plain, uncomplicated fact was that United were pummelled and overwhelmed in every department by a side who did not even allow his own a shot on goal until the game's 72nd minute.
Just one of the game changers on the bench would have offered something. Even Cristiano Ronaldo once sat on a bench at Exeter City. The deployment of Wilfried Zaha, an unused substitute, might have delivered a step-change. His night of bench warming was a mystery.
The hurried press conference was curtailed before there was a chance to explore the defensive errors which characterised the game and to ask van Gaal whether he is shocked by the defensive incompetence he has inherited. His 3-4-1-2 system carries risks which require resolute defenders to enforce it. Even the defender he feels best equipped to cope - Jonny Evans - had a horrible night. If van Gaal can't bring in a defensive reinforcement, it would seem prudent to revert to a four-man unit.
The night revealed the fear which has been eating away at the fabric of the club for over a year, though perhaps that was not so surprising. A starting XI containing Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa - who all seem so transparently to be on their way out of Old Trafford if suitors can be found in the next five days - is not conducive to expressive, confident football.
They actually began quite brightly, speculative shots from Hernandez and Nick Powell reflecting some kind of intent, but then disappeared, cleaved by defensive errors. The MK Dons central midfield combination of Dele Alli - the locally born England under-18 international, who was being watched by Bayern Munich here - and Darren Potter assumed a control that United could not wrest from them. Shinji Kagawa's departure with a head injury after a clattering challenge from Alli was significant only in the opportunity it created to send in Adnan Januzaj - briefly a source of invention.
The goal which took the League One side ahead was a metaphor for the forlorn sight that United have become. Evans was attempting to play the ball across and out of his own penalty area in the new United way when, under no real pressure, he allowed the lurking Ben Reeves to stick out a foot an intercept it. He quickly found Will Grigg - here on a season-long loan from Brentford - who did not waste a moment which will always live with him.
Evans was lucky to have avoided a penalty appeal for handball - a strong Dean Bowditch shot inside the area struck his left arm - before a second goal which was equally pitiful. A ball conceded weakly on the right flank by Will Keane, allowing Danny Powell and Dean Lewington to work the ball rapidly from their own half and release Reeves down the right to dispatch a cross which Grigg chested in. It said everything about the chaos in United's defence that Anderson was nearest to Grigg when he finished.
Louis van Gaal could not bear to watch anymore (Getty)
The humiliation was complete when Reece James conceded possession and allowed George Baldock and Reeves to work the ball through the right channel for Benik Afobe to score again. Mamik Vermijl was the humiliated defender when the fourth went in - allowing a speculative long ball to strike him on the back and then finding Afobe bulldozing past him and a helpless Evans
The home side's supporters will not forget their part in the margins of Manchester United history. The entire squad wage roster here is £50,000-a-week: a quarter of the salary Di Maria will command.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1) Martin; Baldock, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean; Alli, Potter; Bowditch (Powell 56), Reeves, Carruthers (Green 61); Grigg (Afobe 68). Substitutes not used McLoughlin, Spence, Randall, Hitchcock.
Manchester United (3-4-1-2) De Gea; M Keane, Evans, Vermijl; Janko (A Pereira 45), Powell (Wilson 57), Anderson, James; Kagawa (Januzaj 20); Hernandez, Welbeck. Substitutes not used Amos, McNair, Thorpe, Zaha.
Referee S Attwell (Warwickshire).
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