Manchester United crashed to a third consecutive loss for the first time since 2001 after going down 2-1 at Sunderland on Tuesday in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.
United were looking to bounce back from successive home defeats by Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League and Swansea City in the FA Cup, but they lost to the EPL’s bottom side.
Ryan Giggs, who had earlier hit the crossbar, gifted Sunderland the lead with an own-goal and, despite Nemanja Vidic equalising early in the second half, Fabio Borini’s 65th-minute penalty gave the hosts victory.
Having eliminated Chelsea in the previous round, Sunderland remain on course to reach a first domestic cup final since 1992, when they lost to Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
For United manager David Moyes, the gloom grows ever darker, with his hopes of claiming a piece of major domestic silverware in his maiden season severely compromised ahead of the second leg on January 22.
Both managers made seven changes to the sides they fielded in the FA Cup at the weekend, although United were again without injured Wayne Rooney.
Eager to exploit any uncertainty, Sunderland looked to get balls into the box at the earliest opportunity and Borini dragged an early shot wide from just outside the area.
However, boosted by the purposeful running of Adnan Januzaj, United began to assert control of the game.
Giggs sent a deflected 25-metre shot against the crossbar, while Januzaj had a goal ruled out for offside and Vidic planted a header wide from a corner shortly before halftime.
Sunderland emerged unscathed and, in first-half stoppage time, they exploited defensive inattention to go ahead.
From Sebastian Larsson’s deep free-kick, Wes Brown stole in behind Michael Carrick to volley the ball back across goal and, in attempting to prevent Phil Bardsley prodding home, Giggs succeeded only in scoring himself.
United regrouped at the interval and equalised within seven minutes of the second half restart.
Tom Cleverley curled a left-wing corner to the back post and Vidic outjumped former teammates Brown and John O’Shea to power a header past Vito Mannone. But United’s momentum deserted them.
Jonny Evans hobbled off with injury and, after Borini had sliced wide and Larsson had drawn a sharp save from visiting goalkeeper David de Gea, Sunderland restored their lead.
Cleverley was adjudged to have impeded Adam Johnson and, after referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot, Borini calmly lifted the ball past De Gea.