Opposition view on MK Dons: Liam Manning's instant impact, his key change and Dons' players to watch

MK Dons lost manager Russell Martin on the eve of the new season but it has not stopped them from bursting out of the blocks.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 2:00 pm
MK Dons striker Troy Parrott will pose a serious threat to Rovers this weekend. Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images

We spoke to Toby Lock, sports editor of the MK Citizen, earlier this week - ahead of Tuesday night’s games - to get the lowdown on the Dons, their new boss Liam Manning and how he has put his own stamp on the club’s well renowned playing style.

What's your verdict on Dons' impressive start and what has been key to it?

It’s hard to be unhappy with (at the time of writing) sitting third in the league just a point off top spot to be honest!

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The change in the style of play has been integral to the way Dons have started, with Liam Manning's idea of 'purpose over process' hitting the ground running since he took over in August.

What's the aim for MK this season and do you see them as genuine promotion contenders?

The aim initially was to improve on what we saw last season, albeit under the previous regime.

I think given the way the club finished last season, third in the form charts since the turn of the year, they could have expected to be battling in and amongst the play-off spots, but I don't think many would have predicted the start they have made.

I still think there is more to come from the team as it stands, and there will obviously be tricky periods they will have to negotiate during the season but I think a lot of fans will be thinking again at how optimistic they might be this season.

How has head coach Liam Manning settled into the job and what has he brought to the club?

He seems to have hit the ground running, losing only once and that was about 24 hours after he signed the contract.

Since then, the team have bought into what he wants, how he expects them to play and look like they're enjoying his way of playing.

It's reflecting in the results too, winning ugly when they need to as well as blowing teams away when the opportunity presents itself.

Who are the key players for Dons and why?

Matt O'Riley is one of the key men, making the midfield tick in a deeper role than he was seen in last season. A mature head for someone only 20, O'Riley loves being on the ball and will pop up in both boxes to disrupt and cause problems.

Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott too is a real handful and a bit of a coup for a League One side. He always wants to be on the ball and is eager to take players on, he has caused a lot of problems for defences already this season.

How will MK set up this weekend and what can Rovers fans expect to see from them?

They'll want the majority of possession, will pass the ball cleverly as they did last season but now they want to get forward a lot quicker.

The front three will look to turn and run, the wing-backs will add an extra body out wide and the deeper-sitting midfield will also look to play the majority of their football in the opposition's half.