Ibrahimovic scores, Darmian disappoints in Carabao Cup defeat
Manchester United are current holders of the EFL Cup but won't have the opportunity to defend it any further after losing to Bristol City in injury time.
Jose Mourinho claimed that United weren't necessarily favourites ahead of kick-off, after the other Premier League opposition that Bristol had convincingly beaten to reach this round, and this prediction proved correct.
Bristol started the better of the two sides but United came back into the game and were denied twice by the woodwork in the first half. It was Bristol who took the lead though thanks to a brilliant goal from Joe Bryan, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised in his first start since returning from injury.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku forced some top saves from Luke Steele before Korey Smith scored a deserved winner with just 30 seconds of injury time left to play.
Ibrahimovic didn't have a good game at all but at least he got on the scoresheet. He looked a shadow of his former self but to score the equaliser was an important moment for him in his bid to make it back.
United fans can at least feel relieved that they don't have to get knocked out by Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal, which is what would happen in the next round if they put in another performance like that of Wednesday night.
With an easy draw, United didn't have half the fighting spirit and positive mentality of their opposition. The chances of going on to win this competition were slim but that doesn't change that United could have been one step closer to winning silverware if they had shown up on Wednesday night.
Matteo Darmian was appalling but nobody came out of the 90 minutes looking great.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Mourinho made 10 changes to the starting lineup and it didn't work. United looked indifferent for most of the game and he has to take some responsibility for that. Lukaku was a good substitution.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sergio Romero, 6 -- Made some good stops and punches away early on. After a poor clearance, he missed the resulting punch and left his goal wide open for Bristol, but their header was off target. Looked shaky at times but couldn't be blamed for either goal.
DF Matteo Darmian, 3 -- Struggled when one on one on a couple of occasions and didn't stop the ball that led to the winner. A game to forget for the Italian after being outplayed by a Championship-standard opponent.
DF Victor Lindelof, 5 -- After a largely comfortable performance, he was caught out for Bristol's winner.
DF Marcos Rojo, 5 -- Let Bryan get away from him and couldn't get close enough to him to stop the shot which saw United go behind 1-0.
DF Luke Shaw, 6 -- Made some important blocks, got forward well but was wasteful with his crossing.
MF Scott McTominay, 6 -- Guilty of two wild, off-target shots early on but put in a decent shift in the middle of the pitch.
MF Paul Pogba, 7 -- As usual, was central to most of United's good moves. He saw lots of the ball and created some good chances for his teammates.
MF Daley Blind, 6 -- A poor first touch saw him dispossessed and allowed a Bristol break. He was in the right place to head an attempt off the line later though. Then made an exceptional challenge just before half-time to deny what otherwise would have been a certain goal. Taken off with an hour played.
FW Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Hit the post with a powerful effort from outside the box. Could have had a penalty when pulled back in the box. Denied by a great challenge when he should have taken his chance sooner or played in Lukaku.
FW Anthony Martial, 6 -- Delivered a great ball in to Ibrahimovic to set up United's first chance. Great runs to get in good positions but his impact lessened as the game went on.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 6 -- An early chance came back off the woodwork and he later sliced a good chance at the back post. He was wasteful in possession so often and struggled to pull off most of what he tried, before equalising for United with a great free kick. Taken off with 20 minutes left to play, with his goal salvaging what was otherwise a poor performance.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 6 -- Came on with half an hour left to play. Forced a save from Steeler after breaking in to the box and almost scored with a lovely header but was again denied by the Bristol goalkeeper.
FW Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 4 -- Replaced Ibrahimovic with 20 minutes remaining. Didn't do an awful lot.
DF Chris Smalling, NR -- Came on for Darmian at the death.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.