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Five things we’ve learnt from MK Dons vs United

louis van gaalAfter a loss and a draw in his first two games in charge of Manchester United, there was to be no third time lucky for Louis Van Gaal, who watched on in astonishment as his side were humbled 4-0 by MK Dons and suffered the ignominy of exiting the Capital One Cup before the majority of top teams have even entered it.

United, now more than ever, are a side in crisis and lacking identity, which makes analysing their performances all too complicated. However, even embarrassing nights such as last night – and, make no mistake, it did look woefully abysmal from the away end – can provide some indications of what to expect this season.

Here’s five things we’ve learnt from last night…

1) Curtain for the passengers

If there’s one positive to be drawn from last night is that the abysmal performance must have surely pushed a few players closer to the exit door.

Some of them, like Hernandez, should have already gone through that door, while others, like Anderson, might struggle to fit through it.

Chicharito looked totally uninterested and devoid of any urgency, his first touch more shambolic than ever, while Anderson looked as fit as a 35-year-old after a week-long stag do.

Considering the lack of options at Louis Van Gaal’s disposal in midfield, Nick Powell had a chance to force himself back into the first team reckoning but, alas, he missed it.


The impression is that while the former Crewe man might excel in medium-sized clubs, he’s not cut to play for United. A bizarre an misguided signing courtesy of Fergie’s final years at the helm? Now, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

Shinji Kagawa lasted 20 minutes and, though last night’s defeat was not his fault, few would miss him if he was to leave.

2) Mentality must change

Cup upsets aren’t a novelty, particularly in a competition that’s still widely regarded as a hindrance, rather than a genuine shot at glory by most top clubs.

Injuries and the need to rest players forced United to field an experimental side, with a couple of debutants but Van Gaal could still call upon five players who played at the World Cup this summer.

The manner of the defeat more than the result itself – though they’re both strictly related – was deflating, for United were second best in every department. MK Dons were hungrier, more determined and wanted to win more than United did.

In fact, never mind winning, United looked like they didn’t want to be there at all and, quite frankly, some players should never pull on the shirt again.

Losing is acceptable, not caring is intolerable.


3) Playing kids works only if they’re good

Fielding youngsters is embodied in the club’s ethos and many have publicly said that they’d prefer seeing a crop youngsters brought through the ranks, rather than splashing money on world class signings.

Romantic and captivating as that may sound, it’d only be effective if said youngsters were good enough to deliver when called upon.

In United’s case, however, they’re not. Not yet anyway. Michael Keane, Reece James, Andreas Pereira and Saidy Janko might go on to achieve great things with the club but relying on them at the moment is simply suicidal, particularly as the lack of leadership exposes them to capitulations such as last night’s.

Of course, young players have to learn the hard way, but using them as sacrificial lambs isn’t the answer, just as cocooning them in the reserve side isn’t either.

Both are equally damaging and United’s scattergun loan approach in recent seasons has probably done more harm than anything else.

Van Gaal knows how to get the best of his youngsters and, presumably, he’ll get rid of those who he deems not good enough to step up.

4) Leadership anyone?

Speaking of stepping up, Jonny Evans was by many touted as an outsider to replace Nemanja Vidic as captain.

Wayne Rooney has since been awarded the honour and, based on last night’s display, Evans must be grateful he missed out on the armband.

Captain for the night and by far the most senior player in United starting XI, Evans had an absolute nightmare, looking about as solid as a house of cards.

His mistake led to MK Dons’ opening goal, he was lucky not to give away a penalty and looked completely bamboozled by the devastating.strike force of a third division side.

Players have bad days, but Evans looked incredibly shaky without a world class centre-back alongside him and, as far as the captaincy is concerned, leaders should be chosen on merit rather than necessity.

MK Dons v Manchester United, Capital One Cup Football, Stadium MK, Britain - 26 August 2014

5) Support

Van Gaal called for the fans to be patient and support the club, but, judging on last night’s performance, he shouldn’t have worried.

United fans get often criticised for a lack of atmosphere at Old Trafford but the away end was superb last night, “United Calypso” growing louder and louder after MK’s fourth goal.

Van Gaal described the fans as “fantastic” after the game and if United are to climb out of this crisis, the supporters will have to play a major part.