Manchester United suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in their long and proud history as MK Dons piled yet more misery on Louis van Gaal.
The new United boss, now without a win in three matches, watched on in misery as his team were knocked out of the Capital One Cup at the second-round stage with a 4-0 defeat.
Will Grigg and Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe scored a brace apiece as United were easily downed by a team that began the night 38 places below them in the league ladder.
It was a hugely embarrassing defeat — one that brought back unwanted memories of their last League Cup second-round fixture in 1995 when they lost to York.
But it was nothing more than the Red Devils deserved.
A team showing 10 changes from the 1-1 draw at Sunderland never settled all night.
Fringe players like Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa and Anderson were given chances to fight for a place in the first team.
But they all under-performed. Until the dying stages, when the Dons’ victory had already been assured, home goalkeeper David Martin had very little to do.
United handed the victory to the League One side on a plate thanks to a shabby defensive performance.
Jonny Evans, captain for the night, made a glaring error to hand the Dons the lead and from then on it never looked like the underdogs were going to lose.
Van Gaal may have Angel di Maria to count on to aid his recovery — the 59.7 million pound signing was confirmed just before kick-off — and on this evidence, many more replacements are needed, particularly at the back.
The 26,969 fans inside stadium:mk did their best to make United feel unwelcome as they took to the pitch, but in the early stages it appeared to have little effect as the Premier League club started well.
With 50 seconds on the clock, Welbeck raced down the wing and found Hernandez at the back post, but the Mexican slipped just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Nick Powell then fired a 25-yard shot just over the bar.
Hernandez punctured the Dons defence with a burst of pace, but he was pulled back for tugging Antony Kay’s shirt.
Welbeck also broke through the back line in the ninth minute, but he could not test Martin.
From then on, the United team, which contained two debutants, went to pieces.
David de Gea had to race off his line to deny Grigg, who had given Reece James the slip to latch on to Darren Potter’s headed through-ball.
Van Gaal was forced into a change when Kagawa was replaced by Adnan Januzaj following a clash of heads with a Dons defender.
Then came the moment Evans will not forget in a hurry.
The centre-half, under no pressure whatsoever, passed straight into the path of Ben Reeves inside the United box. The former Southampton player kept his cool and squared to Grigg, who slotted the ball past De Gea.
Evans held his head in his hands while the home fans taunted Van Gaal with chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”.
There was no immediate response from United. In fact, they were happy to go in at the break just one goal down.
Even the simplest of passes seemed beyond the 20-time English champions.
Hernandez, Anderson and Powell were all guilty of wasteful play and Martin had nothing to do in the home goal.
Mamik Vermijl’s clearance landed straight at the feet of Samir Carruthers, but he shot straight at De Gea.
Van Gaal replaced the poor Saidy Janko with another debutant, Andreas Pereira.
The League One side continued to hold their own after the restart and they thought they should have had a penalty when Dean Bowditch’s shot struck Evans’ arm. Stuart Attwell waved play on.
Welbeck offered a glimpse of the quality United needed with a fizzing shot that flew just wide.
Defensive vulnerabilities cost United again though as the Dons stunned the home crowd with a second goal.
Evans played a careless ball to Michael Keane, who had little time to clear. The hosts took advantage down the right through Reeves, who whipped in a flat cross which Grigg flicked past De Gea with his chest.
It was an audacious finish that would not have looked out of place at the Nou Camp, rather than the Moo Camp — the local name for stadium:mk due to the presence of the concrete cows nearby.
Seven minutes later a third flew in. Baldock gained some space down the left and found Reeves. He played the ball in behind to Afobe, who rifled past De Gea.
The home fans could not believe the scoreline. There was time for more excitement though. Afobe showed the fight United lacked, driving past three defenders before beating De Gea.
Martin pulled off a string of top saves to keep a clean sheet and put the icing on a miserable night for Van Gaal.
According to ESPN FC and other sources, Manchester United will turn their attention to finally signing Arturo Vidal from Juventus, sources in England and Italy have stated, after just agreeing a fee with Real Madrid to acquire Angel Di Maria.
The club’s mooted interest in Vidal has been a long-running theme of the summer, despite Old Trafford officials regularly briefing that the speculation only came from the player’s camp.
Sources have repeatedly stated that United’s interest was very real, however, and it now appears that they will finally act on that as the club’s need for a midfielder becomes so pressing.
Much was made of Louis van Gaal name-checking Vidal after the 1-1 draw with Sunderland, but that was more than a piece of mischief from the manager, even if he also referenced Leo Messi.
The Dutch coach is now pushing United to make the deal happen, despite previously having had doubts about the purchase, and maintaining some concern about his fitness.
For his part, Vidal is also hugely interested in moving to Old Trafford, and discussions between representatives have already covered the idea of an incentivised contract because of his knee situation.
ESPN had previously been told by sources that Juventus set United a price of 45 million pounds in June. The Italian champions have been hugely wary of the public image the exit of such a player would create, especially after the departure of title-winning coach Antonio Conte in what has been a fractious close season.
Juventus have privately maintained that any sale must come in time for them to properly reinvest, and even set an initial deadline of last Friday. United will now test that, and it has been mooted in Italy that the money from the sale of Vidal could then be used to challenge Real Madrid for the signing of Radamel Falcao.
It is thought that United’s pursuit of the player could go right to the end of the transfer window, which closes Monday, Sept. 1.
The Old Trafford outfit also maintain interest in Ajax’s Daley Blind, who worked so well for Van Gaal during the World Cup with the Netherlands.
Despite a close-season that had been so frustrating, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward may yet justify his words from a mid-summer interview that United would do real business, and produce a genuinely excellent window.
Robin van Persie insists Manchester United will soon recover from the frustrating start to the season that has seen the Reds register just one point from six in the Barclays Premier League.
The Dutchman made his return to first-team action during Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light following an extended break after the World Cup, and played for an hour before being exiting for Danny Welbeck.
Van Persie was delighted to get back to business after a successful summer with Holland and is confident United will swiftly bounce back from recent setbacks.
“We dropped two points today,” he told MUTV. “Clearly we came here to win, and if you go in front after 15 minutes or so, we should have at least held on to that for longer. We were a bit too sloppy in possession, and in that sense we made it too hard for ourselves.
“We’ve played two games and only picked up one point, we would have loved to have got six points but it didn’t happen, so we have to bounce back.”
Quizzed on his own fitness, van Persie continued: “I feel good, I feel fit. I had a good few weeks of training and played my first hour today, so I’ll look forward to the next game.”
Having worked under Louis van Gaal at international level, van Persie says he will help his teammates to adapt to the Dutchman’s philosophy, adding that there remains a belief in the United camp.
“I worked with him for two years, and he’s very clear,” he continued. “He’s clear in what he asks of each player in the team every day. So, where I can, I will help the other players.
“I think that everyone has faith and everyone believes in the staff and players. We have great players, and it’s just a matter of time before the points will start coming in.”
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Sunderland 1 Manchester United 1
Jack Rodwell 30′ Mata 17′
United and Sunderland had to settle for a point apiece after Juan Mata’s first-half strike was soon cancelled out by Jack Rodwell’s header.
The Reds took the lead after 16 minutes when Mata stabbed home a cross from Antonio Valencia, but the Black Cats drew level 15 minutes later when Rodwell – making his home debut following his move from Manchester City – headed home from a corner.
Robin van Persie was back in action following an extended break due to his World Cup exertions, while there were two other changes from last weekend’s defeat to Swansea: the return of Antonio Valencia in the right wing-back role, and Tom Cleverley in for the injured Ander Herrera. Adnan Januzaj made a return to the scene of his remarkable full debut last season, but had to settle for a place on the bench while Sunderland once more had the former United stalwarts John O’Shea and Wes Brown in their ranks, both of whom were loudly serenaded by the travelling Red army.
The spoils were shared in an entertaining if untidy first half, with the dangerous Connor Wickham the main outlet for Sunderland’s attacking moves. The home side enjoyed a brighter start than the Reds but fell behind after 17 minutes. Van Persie fed the ball out to Antonio Valencia who drove into the box and fired a ball across the six yard box, where Mata was in place to stab the ball home after 17 minutes.
United grew in confidence, but the home side edged their way back into the game and were on level terms after 30 minutes. Seb Larsson swung in a corner, Jack Rodwell lost his marker and headed home powerfully from six yards out. The Black Cats came close to grabbing the lead five minutes before the break when Scotland international Steven Fletcher’s overhead kick flew past the post.
Louis van Gaal was forced into an early change when Chris Smalling went off with a hamstring injury. The defender looked to have picked up the problem early in the first half but soldiered on until the 42nd minute when he was replaced by Mike Keane, the 21-year-old making his league debut.
United enjoyed a let-off five minutes into the second half, when Wickham’s goalbound shot ricocheted off Tyler Blackett and bounced away. There was a moment of controversy just after the hour mark when Ashley Young tumbled in the box following a collision with Wes Brown, but referee Martin Atkinson booked the United man for simulation.
Van Gaal shuffled his pack, throwing on Danny Welbeck and Januzaj for van Persie and Darren Fletcher. Tom Cleverley soon followed Young into the book for clattering into Lee Clattermole, and there was more drama to follow with Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone saving the day. United launched a counter-attack following a Sunderland break, with Welbeck releasing Ashley Young with a delightful ball using the outside of his foot. Young was in a race for the ball with Mannone, but the Italian goalkeeper just got there first and cleared to safety.
Chances to win the game at the close were few and far between, and the draw, in truth, was a fair result.
The Louis van Gaal era began in disappointing fashion last weekend as Swansea City recorded a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford, a result that brought Manchester United fans back down to earth following a hugely successful pre-season tour of America. The Reds must now respond and head to Sunderland this Sunday hoping to maintain the positive away form that yielded 34 points from 57 on the road. However, the Black Cats are much-improved under Gustavo Poyet and head into this match on the back of an encouraging 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion. Memories of last term’s Capital One Cup semi-final success over United are also fresh in the mind at the Stadium of Light.
Ins and outs: New-signing Marcos Rojo is unavailable because he hasn’t yet recieved a work permit, after signing for United on Wednesday. Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Jonny evans could also return after training on Thursday. Jesse Lingard is unlikely to feature after limping out of Saturday’s curtain-raiser, while Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick are injured.
Robin Van Persie did not travel to the summer tour of the USA, instead being given extra time off to recover after helping the van Gaal’s Netherlands finish third at the World Cup. However, the boss has revealed he is back to full fitness and in contention to play on Sunday.
“Robin is ready to play, so that is a big benefit for our team,” van Gaal said in his pre-match press conference. “I’m very happy that he is now able to play.”
“Last week, we had nine injuries and now we have seven. It’s much too much. I have had this as a manager for the first time. We have to live with this. We have four injured midfielders – Carrick, from the beginning, but now also Herrera, Fellaini and Lingard. So these four are injured and we are thin on midfielders now.”
Sunderland are expected to be without Billy Jones (hamstring) and Emanuele Giaccherini (groin), as well as midfielder Santiago Vergini.
Manchester United is delighted to announce the signing of defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of €20m, with Nani joining the Portuguese club on a season-long loan. Marcos joins on a five-year contract.
Rojo, 24, joined Sporting from Spartak Moscow, having started his career at his home town team of Estudiantes de la Plata. Marcos has played 28 times for Argentina since making his debut three years ago and played six games, including the final, in his country’s run to the recent FIFA World Cup final, scoring in the last group game against Nigeria. He was named as one of the defenders in the Castrol Index All Star Team of the tournament.
Marcos Rojo said: “It is such an honour to say that I now play for Manchester United. The Premier League is the most exciting league in the world and to have the chance to play in it for the world’s biggest club is a dream for me. I am young and am very keen to continue to learn the game, so playing for such an experienced technical coach as Louis van Gaal is a fantastic opportunity for me. I have joined United to work hard with my team-mates to win trophies and I know that the manager shares that ambition.”
Louis van Gaal said: “Marcos is a very gifted defender. He has played at the highest level in world football and can play either as a central defender or left-back. He has ability, physical strength and a willingness to learn that means he has a very bright future ahead of him. He had a very strong World Cup and has been playing in Europe for a couple of years now. He is a very good addition to the team.”
Espnfc.com reports that Marcos Rojo has arrived in England for a medical ahead of his proposed 20 million-euro move to Manchester United.
The Premier League club agreed a fee with Sporting Lisbon for the Argentina international on Tuesday evening, while Nani has gone in the opposite direction on a season’s loan.
And Rojo was pictured on the plane from Portugal and again in Manchester as he prepares to become United’s third major summer signing.
The 24-year-old had apologised to Sporting after refusing to trainwhile the Portuguese club resolved their dispute with management company Doyen Sports, who owned some of Rojo’s economic rights, before a fee was agreed.
United said on Twitter on Tuesday: “Manchester United is delighted to announce it has reached an agreement with Sporting Lisbon to sign defender Marcos Rojo, subject to a medical and agreeing personal terms. A further announcement will be made when the process is complete.”
United, who have only signed Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera so far this summer, turned to Rojo after accepting defeat in their attempts to sign Mats Hummels and Thomas Vermaelen.
They have been short of defenders after the summer departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra and manager Louis van Gaal’s decision to switch to a formation that requires three centre-backs.
Shaw is out for four weeks with a hamstring injury and Van Gaal had to give 20-year-old Tyler Blackett a debut in the middle of defence in Saturday’s defeat to Swansea so Rojo is likely to come straight into the team for Sunday’s game at Sunderland.