Manchester United have always had a casual and often disinterested relationship with the League Cup since its inception in 1961.
It took more than three decades for United to win the competition and then their victory over Nottingham Forest in the 1992 final was quickly forgotten amid the trauma of their title challenge collapsing in the final weeks of the same season.
They have since won it on another four occasions, in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2017, and while a trophy and a day out at Wembley are always welcome, for a club of United’s stature winning it has always felt distinctly underwhelming.
This means the current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not be too concerned about being knocked out of the competition following a 1-0 defeat to West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
United managers have never been judged on their ability to win the League Cup. It will always be seen as a warm-up act compared to the main acts of the Premier League and Champions League.
But what will have concerned Solskjaer more is how his understudies failed him against West Ham, revealing how his squad might not be as good as he thought.
The United manager played a completely different team to the one that had defeated West Ham 2-1 in the Premier League just three days earlier.
After the return of Cristiano Ronaldo this United squad was hailed as the club’s strongest for more than a decade since the Portuguese attacker helped win the Champions League during his first spell at Old Trafford.
But on Wednesday night the current squad failed its first test to show this by being knocked out of the competition by West Ham.
The starting line-up boasted eleven full internationals, including Dean Henderson, Victor Lindelof, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial.
But this was not enough to overcome a weakened West Ham side, who made 10 changes of their own from the game on Sunday.
This was a chance for many of the fringe members in Solskjaer’s squad to prove they deserve to be starting in the Premier League, but none of them took it.
Instead United now have one less trophy they can win this season, and their former manager David Moyes has his first ever win at Old Trafford in the away dugout.
United were sluggish from the start, which West Ham capitalised on by taking the lead after nine minutes through Manuel Lanzini.
For the next 81 minutes United posed no significant threat to West Ham and never looked like keeping their place in the competition.
Over the course of the game United looked surprisingly blunt in attack, producing 27 shots, but only 6 of them were on target.
Anthony Martial was probably the most disappointing player on the night for United. The Frenchman has flirted with being world class at times during his career, but this was a game in which he lumbered around the pitch.
While his striking counterpart Jarrod Bowen never stopped running for West Ham, Martial never started, producing a slow and disinterested display that lacked the movement to trouble West Ham.
Martial can see how a classic number nine should play by watching his older team-mates Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it appears to have made little difference. At the moment he is a shadow of the player he could be.
“I don’t think it’s right to go into individual performances,” Solskjaer said in an effort to defend Martial on Wednesday night. “Anthony was the same as the rest of the team, we played some nice football, we lacked some of that cutting edge and he knows what we want from him. He’ll keep working and get his chances.”
But Martial was not alone for Jadon Sancho continued his underwhelming start to the season, Juan Mata was largely anonymous, and Jesse Lingard failed to build on the momentum of scoring his late winner at the weekend.
Solskjaer was forced to bring on Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood in the later stages of the game, but that too had little impact.
It was a night when the fringe players showed why they are in that position, and why most will also be staying there for the foreseeable future.