Manchester United humbled by Danish minnows Midtjylland
Things go from bad to worse as Utd lose David de Gea to injury ahead of their 'unacceptable' performance
Midtjylland 2 Manchester United 1
In a season of sloppy performances, Manchester United suffered their most embarrassing defeat yet as they went down 2-1 in Denmark to a side whose wage bill for 2014-15 was £7m, around £196m less than their own.
Midtjylland were only formed in 1999, the same year United touched greatness by winning a domestic and European treble, although those days were a distant memory on a grim evening for the Old Trafford club.
The only crumb of comfort for fans who had forked out £71 for a ticket was that this was only the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie. Then again, given United's injury list and their lack of form, who's to say Midtjylland won't win when the two sides meet again in Manchester next Thursday?
The evening started ominously for United when goalkeeper David de Gea injured himself in the warm-up, a knee problem forcing the Spaniard to be replaced between the sticks by Sergio Romero and increasing the Red Devils injury list to 14.
Nonetheless, they began brightly enough against their hosts - not surprising, given that Midtjylland were playing their first game after a 71-day winter break.
Memphis Depay put United ahead on 37 minutes when he scrambled home Jesse Lingard's cross, but Midtjylland levelled a minute before half-time after Pione Sisto beat Romero with a shot that took a deflection off the shin of Chris Smalling.
Romero - making his first start since October - denied Paul Onuachu a goal in the second-half with a sharp one-handed save, but he couldn't stop the 21-year-old Nigerian scoring the winner on 77 minutes with a low drive into the corner of his net from the edge of the box.
"Fantastic," said Onuachu, when asked to describe the result. "It's a dream come true to play against Manchester United. We stuck to the tactics of the coach and we look forward to the return leg... We expected more from Manchester United. We are positive to go there and achieve."
United had expected more themselves, with captain Michael Carrick scathing in his assessment of their performance. "It's not good enough, not acceptable," he said. "The performance is nowhere near good enough and it has to be better. We caused a lot of our own problems. All in all, it's just not good enough."
The veteran midfielder said all is not lost, but acknowledged that United need a dramatic improvement before the return leg at Old Trafford. "We go home very disappointed. The only positive we can take is that we have a chance to put it right next week. It won't be easy but at home, we still fancy our chances. We have given ourselves a tough job. We have to give everything we can."
A glum Louis van Gaal told reporters that De Gea will have a scan on his injured knee today, but of more pressing concern for the manager is how to regroup his side ahead of Monday's tricky FA Cup clash away at Shrewsbury.
"A lot of things are happening in the heads of the players," he said. "The first goal is deflected, it is unbelievable, it is too much. In the second half, we don't win any duels, any second balls... In certain phases we were not very well organised."