Pitchside

David De Gea aside, there’s no future at United for League Cup flops

Pitchside

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An embarrassing number of people reacting to Manchester United’s defeat to MK Dons - i.e. more than one - have started running around as if they are acrobats, set on fire, required to do a set number of cartwheels in exchange for being doused in water.

There have been outrageous claims from people who should, in theory, know better. Newspapers have claimed that the defeat “heaped more misery on Louis van Gaal” and another broadsheet writer has claimed that the Dutchman cannot lose another game.

There have been claims about a shock defeat to MK Dons, a bottom-feeding club that, by rights, shouldn’t exist anywhere near this high in the league after they destroyed Wimbledon, franchising an existence. It was no shock for anyone who had a passing interest in the biggest club in the country.

The result was a surprise, yes - you expect the better players to beat the worse players most time, but we’ve all done enough laps of the pool to know it isn’t always the case, especially coming off the back of a poor start to the season. The result wasn’t a shock. A 3-0 defeat at home to York, with half of the side that would go on to win the Treble in 1999, that was a shock.

[VAN GAAL BLAMES 'ERRORS' AND 'LUCK']

Of the senior players, there was no reason to believe that any single one of them on the pitch might have been capable of leading by example.

The only one of them who can be considered, without doubt, a United player of the future is David De Gea, and he was stationed in goal, and despite his excellence, he is hardly known for his Peter Schmeichel bawling-out qualities. Ahead of him, things were far worse.

In defence, the first culprit of incompetence was Jonny Evans, who has never proved that he can consistently be the senior member of a central defence. Last night was no exception, and to be generous, perhaps his mistake was as a result of his return to fitness. You would wonder why a lack of fitness would make it necessary to pass a ball five yards to an opponent, in the box, under no pressure, though.

In midfield, a trio of indiscipline was tasked with beating an organised and motivated MK Dons outfit looking to make a name for themselves.

There was Nick Powell, once a fresh-faced and exciting replacement for Paul Scholes, with a wicked shot from distance, and now a player who was most recently on loan at Wigan Athletic, and banned for drink-driving.

Ahead of him was Shinji Kagawa, a man who has signally failed to adapt to English football and playing in a slightly different position of the pitch than he was used in Germany for Dortmund. Kagawa, of course, is so committed to the cause that he was so late for United’s last greatest humiliation, a 2-0 defeat away to Olympiacos, “that he reportedly had to be fast-tracked through departures by United’s security staff and he did so with a fixed smile on his face hinting that he really did not care.”

But worst of all was Anderson.

The man should be Manchester United’s senior midfielder for all Premier League and Champions League games, and yet he can no longer even take a corner. He can barely run. For the last five years of his career he has displayed absolutely no determination other than the determination to waste his career, talent, opportunity, and body mass index.

And his reward has been a new contract.

Ahead of this defence was Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez. Welbeck wants to leave. It would be a shame if he were to do so for United fans, as a local player, but at 23 he has regressed since his excellent 2011-12 season, and with the addition of Angel Di Maria there is no longer room for him in the squad.

Hernandez had the look of someone who knew he was leaving the club and could not be bothered - unwilling to run, pass or shoot accurately - but he’s had that look for the last year.

In the past, when Manchester United were at their very best and confidence was high, United used players around the fringes of the first XI, they would want to impress the manager, and the youth players would try to take their chance.

These days, after the indulgence of mediocrity by Ferguson and the non-existent leadership of Moyes, it falls to Van Gaal to manage a rabble. By his reactions yesterday, not surprised by defeat and not especially bothered, he knew this was the case.

The time to judge Manchester United was last season - no investment, no dominant manager, no competent executive, and a squad of players who didn’t care and couldn’t be made to. The time to judge Van Gaal is when he has his own team - don’t forget none of Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria (and Daley Blind and Arturo Vidal) - featured last night.

It’s been said again and again that United’s problem is the absence of better players, but that is being fixed. But that’s only half the problem, the biggest task of the transfer window is to get rid of the players who will only drag everyone else around them.

MK Dons was not a shock - it was almost an inevitability. But let’s calm down. It’s been in the post ever since the Glazers took over, not since Van Gaal did. If you didn’t realise that already, then you’ve just not been paying attention.

Alex Netherton (on Twitter: @lxndrnthrtn)

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