Defensive Errors Cost United, As MK Dons Run Riot
Manchester United had an evening to forget at Stadium MK, as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat against MK Dons in the second round of the League Cup. Formation players and tactics aside, the scale of the rebuilding process is now clearly apparent. ‘I am here to build up a new team. A new team is not built in one month. It takes time.’
The team sheet read of experience and debutants. The plan was to aid those looking to break into the side this season with some vital on pitch first team experience. By the end however, the side was all over the place, with no apparent formation and resorting to ‘hoof ball’ or backwards passes.
It was a night to forget for the debutants, and Captain Jonny Evans won’t be writing home about it either. Despite the result, United started the first 10 minutes on fire. Welbeck broke down the left and nearly fed Hernandez who slipped. Soon after, a ball fizzed along the box to everyone’s surprise and the chance went begging.
Nick Powell too, starting his first game since December 2012 looked confident and assured in central midfield, fizzing an effort wide from distance. Perhaps the best chance fell to Welbeck, who failed to connect as the weighted pass from Kagawa was snuffed out by the opposition keeper in the nick of time. Concussion forced Kagawa off on the quarter hour for Januzaj, and, as the game began to settle as MK Dons clawed back into the game.
It was after the substitution that the mistakes crept in. Evans played a sloppy pass to the top of the penalty area and Reeves intercepted, before allowing Grigg to pounce on a tap into an empty net past a helpless De Gea.
As stand in captain for the evening, it was not the example to set. Errors became more and more apparent as the game progressed, with possession given away far too cheaply, and far too often. The home side worked tirelessly to keep Welbeck and Januzaj quiet, forcing them to make runs into nowhere, as a third consecutive half time hairdryer loomed.
Half time saw the introduction of Andreas Pereira for Saidy Janko, shifting Januzaj to wing back and the Brazilian to the no.10 role. James Wilson replaced Powell on the half hour mark and the formation then appeared to shift to 4-3-3.
After Pereira had tried to feed Welbeck in, Keane gave away possession on half way and Grigg added to his and MK Dons’ tally by arrogantly chesting home a cross.
Bright sparks for United came few and far between, with a shot not registered on target until the 72nd minute. A miserable end to Van Gaal’s night was ensured when Afobe made it three after more defensive frailties gifted him a goal minutes after coming on. As the game fizzled out, there was time for a fourth. Afobe again utilised his strength to finish a counter attack that stemmed from a Januzaj attack.
James Wilson so nearly grabbed a consolation for the Reds, after Januzaj’s effort cannoned off the post, but it ended as a league cup exit and a night to forget for the Reds.
The game should’ve been a lift, given the Di Maria signing, but for all of the attacking prowess the summer signings have brought, defence is the heart of the issue. Yes, Evans was returning from injury, but Anderson and Hernandez failed to deliver and show their experience.
Nonetheless, thoughts must now turn to Turf Moor on Saturday lunchtime, with three points the only option.