History shows Manchester United slip not so surprising
While Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was left to offer abject apologies, and home fans shook their heads, a flick through football's record books perhaps helped illustrate why the English giants' loss to lower-tier Crystal Palace in the League Cup should have come as no great surprise.
Humbled 2-1 at home by second-tier Palace on Wednesday night, United's loss simply compounded a staggering record against lowly opponents for England's most dominant club.
While at the same time maintaining a Premier League stranglehold, and filling their coffers with other silverware, United's performances in the League Cup since the 1990/91 season have seen them lose to lower league opposition nine times -- almost an average of once every other season.
Not all of those defeats led to elimination, on occasion United bounced back in a two-legged contest.
Image: Glenn Murray of Crystal Palace competes with Jonny Evans of Manchester United
'My apologies to the fans, because this was not a Manchester United performance'
But still the statistic is remarkable given that over the same period United won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, two European Champions League titles, a European Cup Winners' Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, and an Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup to boot.
It would be easy to assume that in their pursuit of bigger prizes, United's sullied record can be explained away by second-rate line-ups as key players rest for bigger challenges.
That may have been part of the answer over the years, but as Ferguson was quick to point out, his team on Wednesday was packed with internationals.
"My apologies to the fans, because this was not a Manchester United performance," Ferguson said. "We never expected that.
"Any time we go on the pitch it means a lot to Manchester United. We have our pride to protect and our history to protect. Every time we walk on the pitch it's important.
"There were nine internationals out there, so that was a big disappointment."
Image: Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United disappointed but not surprised
A disappointment for United? Yes. But a surprise?
In addition to United's less-than stellar record against smaller teams in the competition, Palace's recent League Cup showing may have at least hinted at the result -- the south Londoners have now won their last four League Cup quarter-finals against top-flight opposition.
United's League Cup slip-ups against lower league opponents since 1990-91 (opponents' prefix denotes English division):
1990/91 Final II-Sheffield Wednesday 1-0
1993/94 2nd, 1st leg II-Stoke City 2-1 won on agg
1995/96 2nd, 1st leg III-York City 3-0 lost on agg
1997/98 3rd II-Ipswich Town 2-0
2003/04 4th II-West Bromwich Albion 2-0
2006/07 4th II-Southend Utd 1-0
2007/08 3rd II-Coventry City 2-0
2008/09 SF, 1st leg II-Derby County 1-0 won on agg
2011/12 QF II-Crystal Palace 2-1
Image: Darren Ambrose of Crystal Palace scores the opening goal during the Carling Cup quarter-final match against Manchester United