The Capital One Cup provided little respite to Manchester United’s faltering start to the season as they were emphatically dumped out by League One side MK Dons in a humiliating 4-0 defeat. A brace apiece from Will Grigg and Benik Afobe crowned a famous night at Stadium MK. The result leaves Louis Van Gaal still in search of his first competitive victory as United manager. On the day when United announced the capture of Angel DiMaria for a British transfer record fee of £59.7 million, they were humbled by a side that cost £250,000 to assemble.
There were 10 changes to the side that drew with Sunderland on Sunday, with only David De Gea retaining his place in the starting XI. Youth was given a chance as Keane, Vermijl, James, Powell and Janko were handed starts. It was a bright start to the game for United, Danny Welbeck threatening down the left with his pace and direct running. In the first ten minutes, both Powell and Hernandez had efforts on goal after neat build up play. Shinji Kagawa was forced off after 20 minutes, complaining of blurred vision after suffering a blow to the head and was replaced by Adnan Januzaj. After an encouraging start from the away side, they dropped off the pace and began to be plagued by sloppy passing. Johnny Evans gifted the ball to Reeves in the United penalty area, who squared for Will Grigg to put the home side in front.
United’s disjointed play continued after half time as they struggled to get their passing game going in midfield. The Dons looked hungrier and were first to every ball. They found themselves 2-0 down just after hour mark, again getting punished for giving the ball away cheaply in midfield. Reeves, again the provider, whipped a great cross in that was coolly dispatched by Grigg, with an audacious finish off his chest. Reeves had his third assist of the night seven minutes later, his slide rule pass finding substitute Benik Afobe who made no mistake slotting the ball past DeGea. United pushed for a consolation, James Wilson was twice denied by good saves from Martin in the Dons’ goal. As they searched for a goal, they were hit on the counter attack and Afobe powered his way past three defenders to rifle in Dons’ fourth and his second. The home team’s performance was embodied by the strength and determination of his run, two things United’s performance desperately lacked.
The Capital One Cup would not have been at the top of Van Gaal’s priorities at the start of the season, but this result will do nothing for the confidence of a side clearly lacking belief. While United lost League Cup games to lower league opposition in the Ferguson era, the worry is that these abject displays are becoming the norm and have been for a number of months now. The rot has well and truly set it in.