A 3-1 defeat for Manchester United against West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday lunchtime signalled the worst start to a season for the Reds in Premier League history, only matched by David Moyes' torrid campaign in charge.
A number of key issues presented themselves as manager Jose Mourinho made some tactical and personnel changes.
From the minute the lineups were announced, any clued-in United fan sensed what was to come. The selections were baffling. Scott McTominay in centre-back in place of Eric Bailly, a backline of five with a deep midfield and no real centrally attacking presence to support the front pairing and Jesse Lingard out of the squad completely. Everything about the XI pointed towards a dismal performance, and that is certainly what was on show. An early Felipe Anderson goal resulting from a defensive lapse in concentration was soon followed by an unlucky Victor Lindelof own goal. Mourinho’s side showed no fight and once more resorted to the “Fellaini-ball” tactic. A visibly despondent Paul Pogba was paired with a sloppy Nemanja Matic, both effectively occupying the #6 role, creating holes elsewhere in the pitch for the oddly outstanding Mark Noble to exploit. These selection woes and poor team performances lead me on to my second post-match point, Mourinho’s days are numbered.
As is typical of his third season at previous clubs, Mourinho looks like a man who no longer cares, and perhaps more telling is that his players look the same way. The public drama surrounding the Pogba-Mourinho feud seems to have left many players performing relative to the atmosphere around the club. Mourinho’s reliance on lumping it to the big men as a Plan B is symbolic of his tenure at the Manchester club, he barely resembles half the manager he once was and appears well and truly out of ideas. Many bookmakers now have José as the favourite in the sack race, with odds as low as 8/5 (Bet365) for the Portuguese boss to be the first to take the plunge.
Lack of quality
Finally, perhaps the most visible problem of United’s is the distinct lack of match-winning quality. Liverpool have Mo Salah, Chelsea have Eden Hazard, Man City have Kevin De Bruyne, while United have an underperforming Paul Pogba, wantaway Martial and the seemingly finished Alexis Sanchez. It is the latter in Sanchez who serves as a perfect metaphor for everything that has got Manchester United into their current state, a player on big wages, with a big ego, but no big performances.
If nothing else, this hopefully marks a turning point in United’s season, be it managerially or stylistically, this shocking result should be the badly needed catalyst for the club to get their season restarted.