I must admit to being a bit confused about what I’m seeing from Manchester United at the moment.
In pre-season, we were playing some superb football, the team looked full of confidence and the fast, free-flowing stuff which has been a feature of Manchester United through the years all came flooding back.
This, of course, was all put down to the Louis van Gaal effect.
It seems, however, to have been merely the effect of playing a game without the pressures of actually winning coming into play because our two Premier League games so far this season have seen us play as badly as we ever did under David Moyes last season.
Tonight, we take on a team that currently sits in seventh place of League One. Yes, it’s an away fixture but it is a match we would be expected to win comfortably but the lack of confidence felt by the fans about it is surely a reflection of the lack of confidence that already seems to be pervading the squad.
As I write, we are awaiting the announcement of our new record signing, Angel Di Maria and it is to be hoped that such a huge signing will provide the fillip that our players so obviously need right now.
If things continue as they are even after the signing of Di Maria then I really don’t know what the answer is. Van Gaal’s will have a problem on his hands the solving of which will require him to earn every penny of his substantial salary.
That all said, tonight does provide an opportunity to actually win a game of football and I do believe that with no European football there to distract us this season, we need to give 100% in these domestic competitions and do all that we can to win one of them.
What is unclear at this moment in time is how LvG will view this competition. Fergie never really valued it highly and would often use it as an opportunity to blood a few youngsters.
That was when we had bigger fish to fry, though, and I’m not sure LvG has that luxury at the moment. Should we lose tonight then the press will have knives, machetes and chainsaws out.
This all seems to be a part of the problem, though and after the abject failure of last season, all seem eager to put things right this season which only adds pressure which leads to the poor performances on the pitch which all becomes something of a vicious circle.
LvG picked up on it a bit when he said after our performance against Sunderland over the weekend that sometimes we rushed the final ball and sometimes we took too long to play that final ball.
It’s a mixture of anxiety and wanting good things to happen and over-cautiousness and wanting to make absolutely sure that nothing bad will happen.
United are at their best when the football is more instinctive. One and two-touch passing at pace that leaves the opponent wondering what just hit them. When we dare to win and fears of losing don’t even enter the head.
Quite what we will see tonight, though, is anyone’s guess. I cannot bring myself to think of anything other than a United victory but the MK Dons will be fully aware that if there was ever a good time to draw Manchester United in a cup competition then it’s probably now and will seek to take advantage of that fact.
The bookies think that this will be a routine win for United and it could well turn out that way but I think the Dons are well over-priced at around 9.0 (8/1) and I think a little dabble on the Dons in the Asian Handicap is worth a go.