The Tannadice side went from re-engaging with the joys of European competition last week, winning 1-0 at Tannadice, to enduring a horror show in Alkmaar seven days later. It’s just as well the BBC are stopping their classified results service because this would have been given the 7 (seven) treatment.
Already 5-0 down, United matched the worst-ever result by a Scottish club in Europe by conceding two more goals in the second half. Many away fans were already on their way back to nearby Amsterdam to drown their sorrows.
A goalkeeping error from Mark Birighitti contributed to the outcome but United were already rocking after conceding twice in the opening half hour as the Dutch hosts took control of the Conference League third qualifying tie.
Birighitti spoke on the eve of the match about coming to Alkmaar for a trial as a teenager. The Australian was not recruited and his failure to get anything on a corner perhaps showed why.
The dangerous Vangelis Pavlidis headed into the empty net for his second of the evening. There were still ten minutes to go until half-time.
Around 1300 visiting fans watched the rest of the half – the rest of the match indeed – through the cracks in their fingers.
Jack Ross will have a job on his hands to rejuvenate his team after a chastening experience. United were already looking to bounce back after a 1-0 loss to Livingston last weekend.
They now face a trip to face Hearts at Tynecastle, one Scottish football's least welcoming venues. Ross will already be a marked man.
It’s remarkable how quickly perceptions change. United earned all the plaudits, and rightly so, for a first leg performance of vim and vigour. It was augmented by a wonderful winning goal from Glenn Middleton, a second half substitute here. He and fellow half-time sub Ilmari Niskanen endured a thankless task and indeed neither had time to break sweat before Dani de Wit made it six a minute after the break.
It was the fifth goal conceded in 15 minutes of playing time. The interval merely interrupted the carnage. It was a savage dissection by a team that finished sixth in the Dutch top flight last season. The visitors had the foresight to wear black to what turned into their own funeral.
What might have happened had Ian Harkes’ acrobatic volley not been met by an even better save from ‘keeper Hobie Verhulst after 26 minutes? It isn’t too fanciful to envisage a different story unfolding if the American midfielder’s effort made the net bulge – as it seemed destined to do. This would have at least drawn United level again on the night although AZ’s opener, after cutting through the United defence down the left, was an ominous sign of what was to come. Pavlidis was on hand to tap the ball in.
The goals arrived at regular intervals thereafter. The excellent Tijani Reijnders made it two after 31 minutes after the ball was deflected into his path off Dylan Levitt. Pavlidis headed in the third from a corner and Reijinders slammed in a fourth after the visitors failed to clear their lines. Hakon Evjen hit a terrific fifth from just outside the area.
De Vit slammed in a sixth just after the break and substitute Mayckel Lahdo slipped the ball under Birighitti with 16 minutes left.
There was some relief sourced from the fact United managed to avoid conceding a record-breaking eighth – a post saved them from that fate in injury time as Pavlidis was denied a hat-trick.