Friday 23 March 2018

Louis van Gaal left humiliated as Man United suffer Dons drubbing

MK Dons 4 Man United 0

MK Dons English striker Benik Afobe scores their third goal
MK Dons English striker Benik Afobe scores their third goal
Manchester United's Michael Keane wins a header from MK Dons Dean Bowditch
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal and assistant manager Ryan Giggs watch from the bench

Ian Herbert

By the end of a wretched evening for Manchester United, the MK Dons fans were crowing "you're not famous any more". United are not frightening any more, not organised any more, not confident any more. United are certainly not in the Capital One Cup any more. They are out before Manchester City are even in.

United were shambolic defensively, insipid in midfield and blunt in attack.

Those involved shamed a distinguished shirt. The only defiance shown by those in red shirts were standing behind one goal. United supporters sang endlessly, raising the volume as the scoreboard charted their team's demise, as the goals flew in from Will Grigg twice and the substitute Benik Afobe twice.

Karl Robinson looked on, enjoying the spectacle as Louis van Gaal never moved from his dug-out as his 3-5-2 system was ripped apart.

During his seven years as an Academy coach at Liverpool, Robinson must have dreamed of moments like this, masterminding a defeat of United.

This was no fluke. Robinson's side were more organised, more determined. They were calmer in possession. Dele Alli was superb.

So a club that did not exist a decade ago humiliated opponents who were European champions six years ago. A team with a wage-bill of pounds £3million outplayed visitors whose annual dressing-room income touches £180million.

United were much-changed, and they have big stars to return, but this will still go down as one of the great Cup upsets.

Probably sensing a quick buck more than an upset, touts had gathered early outside Stadium:mk - feeding on interest in a sold-out game the hostsreckoned they could have sold 50,000 tickets for.

Two kids walked slowly from the club reception, looking crestfallen on being told that there were no tickets left. "You're breaking hearts,'' one receptionist whispered to another.

Many had come to support United, to see Van Gaal's much-changed side, who strolled from the away dressing-room, lining up under the huge sign saying "Welcome to the Jungle". Even before Grigg tore them apart, all the pressure had been on United. Some like Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa were playing to impress potential employers. Few shone.

Kagawa, possibly playing his last game in the United jersey before a possible switch to Juventus, departed midway through the half - having sustained a bloody nose, resulting in Adnan Januzaj being sprung from the bench.

Others in the red were seeking to catch the eye of Van Gaal. Saidy Janko, a Swiss Under-19 international who arrived last year from FC Zurich, was given his competitive debut at right wing-back.

Reece James was also making his debut over on the left of Van Gaal's troubled 3-5-2 system. Holes began appearing.

The Belgian Marnick Vermijl was on the left of the back-three with Michael Keane to the right of the captain, Jonny Evans.

The tall central-midfielder, Nick Powell - a player which many believe has England potential if he seizes his chance - was back at the stadium where he scored twice in an FA Cup defeat of MK Dons last January while on loan at Wigan Athletic.

He almost scored after three minutes, sweeping a 25-yarder just over. Otherwise, in a poor first half for the visitors, Powell was outmuscled by Dele Alli.

Powell was partnered in central midfield by Anderson, a midfielder who will not be missed when United can eventually offload the under-performing Brazilian.

For all the talk of discards and hopefuls, United were let down by the (supposedly) experienced Evans midway through the half. The Northern Irishman played the ball inside towards Vermijl, but Ben Reeves slid in, closing him down, nicking the ball and then knocking it across to Grigg. The MK Dons centre-forward calmly strokedthe ball from right to left past David De Gea.

It was dreadful defending by Evans but also indicative of the United players' unease with the 3-5-2 system of Van Gaal's, a formation that can leave chunks of space between the centre-halves.

"You're getting sacked in the morning,'' sang the MK Dons fans towards Van Gaal. They were soon chanting ole when Ireland underage international Samir Carruthers' snap-shot was saved by De Gea and also during a neat passing move orchestrated by Alli, who was dropping deep, picking up possession off his centre-halves.

Alli - the tall, muscular teenager with a good touch - was again being watched by Premier League scouts. He was also being watched by referee Stuart Atwell, after one fulsome, man-and-ball tackle on Januzaj.

Robinson's side simply wanted it more. There was no urgency to United, perhaps affronted to find themselves playing in the second round of the League Cup, the first time in 19 years, because of their failure to qualifyfor Europe.

Only Welbeck, to his credit, seemed determined to fight against the incipient embarrassment.

Van Gaal removed Janko at the break, sending on Andreas Pereira, who promptly curled a free-kick painfully wide. Van Gaal then took off Powell, unleashing the striker James Wilson. Welbeck seemed inspired by the greater numbers in attack, firing a shot just wide.

United's back-three then fell apart again after 62 minutes. As Andersonjogged back, Keane was caught out by Reeves on the left, the cross came in,and Evans was again slow to react. Grigg calmly chested the ball past De Gea to send MK Dons into dreamland.

They were soon into the third round, courtesy of Afobe, a forward on loan from Arsenal. Afobe ran through and coolly placed the ball past De Gea.

Wilson attempted to bring United back into it, but Martin pushed over his dipping strike.

Then to the shock of everyone in the ground, MK Dons simply added a fourth. Afobe charged through - shrugging off James, Evans and Vermijl before placing the ball expertly past De Gea.

United supporters somehow managed to keep singing but Van Gaal has so much work to do, restoring belief, buying a commanding centre-half and warrior central midfielder. (© Telegraph Syndication)

Irish Independent

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