Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were comfortably beaten by West Ham as it was once against demonstrated just how far the Red Devils have fallen
Where does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer go from here?
His team’s winless streak away from home in the Premier League stretches to seven following this dismal reverse at West Ham.
Whatever lustre conjured by the once-mighty Manchester United name has been long gone.
Solskjaer’s team are a complete mess.
Granted allowances must be made for the absences of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw but all teams suffer injuries.
What lies beneath the surface, when United have to draw on their squad, has been pitiful and not fit for purpose. Then again, they hardly pull up many trees with their first XI either.
They may have got their second league win of the season last week against Leicester at home but that had more to do with how the visitors wilted in the expectation that they would take care of business.
That win, given to them by a penalty converted by Marcus Rashford, papered over the cracks at the club.
Here, against West Ham, they got exactly what they deserved in a 2-0 loss. There was no punch, no verve and the distinct lack of a plan. They beat Astana, narrowly, in midweek. That’s currently about their level. West Ham are too good for them.
They had what United didn’t; a busy midfield, a lively attack line and a striker who knows what he’s doing in Sebastien Haller.
Rashford will probably not be available to Solskjaer in the immediate future either. The England striker pulled up with what looked like a pulled muscle during the second half, chasing what was another aimless round ball into the channel.
With Romelu Lukaku sold to Inter, and scoring in this weekend’s Milan derby, the striking burden was scheduled to be rotated between Rashford and Martial.
The Frenchman has been himself injured with no certain return date. United are lacking firepower at a time they need it most. The wisdom to get rid of Lukaku can be legitimately questioned.
Solskjaer had few senior options for the midweek Europa League game so Rashford played there as well. A concern for Solskjaer has been how to manage the workloads of his two strikers now that both are proving vulnerable to knocks and strains.
Jesse Lingard came on for Rashford here, demonstrating the paucity of the club’s forward options. He barely attracted a passing glance during his minutes on the pitch.
The only one who looked anything like an attacking threat was again Daniel James. His pace will cause trouble for any team but he has been suffering from a severe lack of help.
All over the pitch, United were second best. Harry Maguire, so surefooted in the win against Leicester, was all at sea early on. He, like Victor Lindelof, was cursed to lose almost every header on the day to the impressive Haller.
It was the Swede who played Andriy Yarmolenko onside for the opening goal and Maguire failed to get close enough to prevent the shot.
Maguire’s passes on occasion put his own midfield under pressure and one ill-advised dribble in the first half caused the concession of a corner.
It’s not often Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets criticised but here his positioning was at times suspect, allowing West Ham to canter in behind.
Ashley Young embodies the right qualities but would not be a starter in many more top teams. It was his foul on Mark Noble which ultimately coughed up the second goal.
In midfield, Nemanja Matic was ponderous having captained the side on Thursday. Alongside him, Scott McTominay huffed and puffed but has been hampered by a lack of technical quality.
Juan Mata missed the one good chance that came his way and has been not the optimum soccer professional for this kind of team. Andreas Pereira has been a fish out of water playing wide on the right of midfield.
It’s frankly stunning that Solskjaer saw fit to name the same XI for this game as he played against Leicester last week.
This has been a results business of course and United got one there. But there has been no pervasive method about this team, no joined-up quality, no cohesiveness.
Article continues below
What brings it into all the starker contrast has been the realisation that Manchester City put West Ham away a matter of weeks ago by a 5-0 scoreline.
By the time Aaron Cresswell curled a sumptuous free-kick into the top corner, the Manchester United fans were streaming out, the distant away end emptying fast. They had seen enough.
Solskjaer’s winning streak has been now as distant a memory, the false dawn of all false dawns.