Louis van Gaal will try again to get his first competitive win as Manchester United boss when the Premier League side travel to take on League One side Milton Keynes Dons in the second round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday. It is a sign of United’s woes over the past year that this will be the first time that they have been involved in the League Cup this early since 1995, with those clubs involved in Europe having received a bye in this round of the competition in recent years.
The early stages of England’s secondary cup competition would likely have featured low on Van Gaal’s list of priorities when he took the reins at Old Trafford this summer. Yet, after following up a woeful defeat at home to Swansea City on the opening day of the Premier League with a disappointing draw at Sunderland on Sunday, the experienced Dutch coach can ill afford the any further morale-sapping defeats, particularly to lower-league opposition.
Still, just 48 hours after United’s last fixture and with a Premier League meeting with Burnley upcoming early on Saturday, Van Gaal will still have his mind elsewhere. And his options remain greatly limited by an untimely rash of injuries. Midfielders Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick remain on the sidelines, alongside new signing Luke Shaw. On Sunday, Chris Smalling joined that injury list.
There is some good news, with Jonny Evans available to make his first appearance of the season in Milton Keynes after recovering from a leg injury. The match again comes too early for new signing Marcos Rojo, who is still awaiting his work permit. Ángel di María, reportedly in Manchester to undergo a medical on Tuesday ahead of a British record £60 million transfer from Real Madrid, could make his debut at the weekend. The Argentinean may, at least initially, take up a midfield role as Van Gaal continues to struggles for options. Against Sunderland he was compelled to bring on Adnan Januzaj to operate in an unfamiliar central midfield role.
“It is not usual that we have four injuries in midfield,” he said, according to Manchester United’s official website. “Every club that has that, has a problem. That is why I played Januzaj in midfield because as a coach I want to win. I have said that we need creative passing and I thought Januzaj could provide that. That is the reason.”
MK Dons could feel poised for an upset. The club, which formed following the hugely controversial relocation of Wimbledon in 2003, beat the team set up following that move, AFC Wimbledon, in a heated first-round tie of the Capital One Cup. After finishing 10th in League One last season, the side managed by Karl Robinson have begun the current campaign with seven points from four games following a goalless draw with Coventry City at the weekend.
Prediction: Manchester United’s team selections in the opening matches of the Premier League season resembled the types of lineups more customarily seen in the League Cup, meaning that Van Gaal has little flexibility. On Sunday, the team finished with 20-year-old Tyler Blackett and 21-year-old Michael Keane in their back three and both could start at Stadium mk. There are likely to be more changes up front, with Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernández, Januzaj and the seemingly frozen out Shinji Kagawa in contention. Those players could at least give United some of the attacking pace they have lacked so far this season. And, while it is again unlikely to be a convincing performance, with MK Dons also having one eye on league commitments, United should have enough to pick up a win.
MK Dons 1-2 Manchester United
Kickoff time: 3 p.m. ET
TV channel: beIN Sports
Live Stream Info: beIN Sports Connect