MK Dons sprung the surprise of the year by hammering Manchester United 4-0 at stadium:mk on Tuesday night.
On what was a quite astonishing evening, 26,696 fans filled both tiers of the ground to witness Dons’ most historical victory. And what’s more, it came at a relative canter.
Ben Reeves was in sensational form as he set up three of Dons’ goals, the first two scored by Will Grigg, and Benik Afobe’s first, while his persistence to score the fourth had Milton Keynes, and indeed the footballing world, scratching their heads at what was happening at stadium:mk.
Karl Robinson made two changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Coventry on Saturday, replacing Daniel Powell with Samir Carruthers, while David Martin overcame the injury which saw him ruled out of the match at the weekend, and he took over in goal from Ian McLoughlin.
For United, there were 10 changes - only David De Gea retained his place in goal, while there were starts for Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Anderson in a side littered with youth and experience.
As was to be expected, United were the ones in the ascendency in the early stages. Nick Powell, who scored Wigan’s extra time winner in the FA Cup third round replay last season, was the first to have Martin flying across his goal with a fierce shot after just four minutes, while Hernandez saw his low drive deflected wide of the mark by Dean Lewington.
Dons had their moments though, with Dele Alli working himself some space on the edge of the box, but saw his strike deflected by Michael Keane, while Darren Potter couldn’t keep his volley down after United struggled to clear Dean Bowditch’s free kick.
From there, Dons began to enjoy a period of possession, stroking the ball around nicely in their usual fashion, with Potter orchestrating among the defence.
United were dealt the first blow of the night though, when Shinji Kagawa was forced off after just 20 minutes. The visitors weren’t short of quality on the bench though, replacing him with Belgian international Adnan Januzaj.
It got worse though, as Dons took a sensational lead six minutes later. Dawdling on the ball, Jonny Evans played a ball straight at Reeves, who in turn teed up Will Grigg. With De Gea out of position, Grigg hammered the ball into the empty net, stunning stadium:mk.
And it could have been even better for the men in white when Grigg nodded down into Carruthers’ path, though his stinging volley was straight at De Gea, who had to take the pace out of it before gripping hold for good.
With it, the atmosphere behind De Gea’s goal vaporised. Perhaps fearing the worst, or expecting more of the same of what they’ve seen this season, the United fans fell distinctly quieter than they had been for the earlier 35 minutes. So Dons carried on about their way, passing neatly in midfield, suffocating United and forcing them back into their own half.
And it meant they would take the lead into the break.
Much like in the first half, United started the half the stronger, but more likely because they’d had a fire set under them by their manager at the interval. But they weren’t particularly threatening, though Welbeck had Martin at full stretch from the edge of the box, but couldn’t find the target.
Dons replaced both wingers Bowditch and Carruthers by the hour mark, with Daniel Powell and Danny Green, but it was the former who would be next in line to test De Gea after a neat one-two with Dean Lewington as Dons found their feet.
As if it wasn’t already a dreamland scenario, Will Grigg’s second of the night threw in yet another curve ball. Reeves burned Michael Keane for pace, sending in a peach of a delivery on the left flank, though the sheer audacity of Grigg to chest the ball home from six yards out made for an all-the-more unbelievable event.
Grigg was given a hero’s send-off when he was replaced by Benik Afobe shortly afterwards.
Incredibly though, it got better. A quick break from half way saw Reeves and substitute Afobe race clear. Reeves looked to play the ball wide, but sent the pass through to Afobe in a moment of sheer arrogance. Afobe didn’t need to be asked twice, slotting home Dons’ third of the night.
After that, United kept on pushing forwards, but Martin was a match for their efforts. He made an incredible stop when Reece James worked himself space on the edge of the box, but didn’t need to touch Januzaj’s shot as it pinged off the outside of the post.
As if the night could get much better, Afobe’s sheer persistence earned him his second goal as he barged through the United defence to smash home Dons’ fourth of the evening in quite incredible scenes.
The full time whistle was met with sheer jubilation from both players and fans, while the United fans behind the goal kept in full voice.
As a side note, Dons go into the third round of the Capital One Cup, though few thoughts were spent on that as the night, and the party, began.
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Attendance: 26,969 (6,240)
MK Dons: Martin, Baldock, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Alli, Potter, Bowditch (Daniel Powell 56), Reeves, Carruthers (Green 60), Grigg (Afobe 68)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Spence, Randall, Hitchcock
Manchester United: De Gea, Keane, Evans, Vermijl, James, Nick Powell, Janko (Pereira 45), Anderson, Hernandez, Kagawa (Januzaj 20), Welbeck
Subs not used: Amos, McNair, Thorpe, A Pereira, Zaha, Wilson
Booked: James, Kay