Michael Carrick has no doubt Manchester United could suffer further humiliation on Monday at Shrewsbury if they do not raise their performance level from Thursday’s sorry defeat to FC Midtjylland.
The latest substandard display of United’s increasingly troubled season saw them lose 2-1 to the Danish outfit in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie – a result set to be looked back upon as one of the most embarrassing in their European history.
Red Devils supporters at the MCH Arena in Herning made their feelings about the team’s performance known at the end, hurling expletive-laden abuse, and midfielder Carrick has apologised to the fans over the showing, for which he felt there could be “no excuses”.
Three days before they attempt to turn things around in the second leg, United play Shrewsbury in the FA Cup with a quarter-final place up for grabs.
The League One outfit may well be feeling encouraged after Thursday about their chances of springing an upset.
And Carrick said: “Monday is a different game but we do need to be so much better than we were on Thursday.
“We know what Monday is going to be – it has been shown many times. It’s going to be a tough game. And (the Midtjylland match) has shown that if you are not anywhere near your best then you can slip up, so we need to be ready for that.
“If we are at our best then we should win the game, but it is not as easy as that – as Thursday night has shown.”
United were memorably thrashed 4-0 in the Capital One Cup last season at then-League One side MK Dons.
And, mindful of the possibility of anything like that happening again on Monday, Carrick has insisted he and his team-mates will be doing everything they can to emerge from the low of Thursday ready to bounce back.
“We’re bitterly disappointed, frustrated and angry at the performance, but over the next few days we will get ourselves ready for the games coming up,” said the 34-year-old, United’s captain on Thursday in the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney.
“We have to pick ourselves up and go again – there is no other way.”
Regarding United’s fans, Carrick added: “They have been incredible.
“We haven’t given them an awful lot to shout about in the last two or three years but they have stuck by us, supported us incredibly well, and I can only really apologise for losing a game like that (on Thursday) and not rewarding them for their support.
“Hopefully we can get back to doing that, starting on Monday.”
United had 13 senior players unavailable on Thursday due to injury and illness, with goalkeeper David De Gea the latest to join the list after sustaining a knee problem in the pre-match warm-up.
But Carrick stressed: “I don’t think you can use injuries as an excuse.
“It is something that is not ideal and sure, we want everyone fit, but I can’t make any excuses.”
Memphis Depay gave United a 37th-minute lead but Pione Sisto swiftly levelled, taking advantage of a Carrick mistake, and Paul Onuachu’s 77th-minute strike then handed Midtjylland victory on the night.
The visitors did not pose much attacking threat overall, and De Gea’s replacement Sergio Romero was key in ensuring they did not suffer a heavier defeat.
The final score as it was means United still have every chance of securing progress to the last 16.
But the simple fact they have to come from behind against an outfit only formed in 1999 – the year the Old Trafford club won the Champions League as part of a famous treble – says much about how badly things are going for United boss Louis van van Gaal and his team.
With his side six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City in the Premier League, the Dutchman admitted earlier this week the most viable way into next season’s Champions League for United would be winning the Europa League.
Thursday will have done nothing to boost confidence on that front, though, as the scrutiny on Van Gaal’s position – and talk he could soon be replaced by Jose Mourinho – continues to grow.