Jose Mourinho’s crisis at Manchester United worsened, as West Ham ran out convincing winners in the early kickoff on Saturday.
Looking to bounce back from their Carabao Cup elimination in midweek, Manchester United got off to the worst possible start as Felipe Anderson flicked in Pablo Zabaleta’s cross within the first five minutes. Mourinho’s day got worse, as on the stroke of halftime Andriy Yarmolenko’s wayward shot looped in off Victor Lindelof to send the Hammers’ fans into dreamland. Marcus Rashford halved the deficit with a tidy backheeled finish with twenty minutes to go, before United fell apart defensively, allowing Marko Arnautovic to seal the win after being played through one-on-one with David de Gea.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
This start is now worse than Moyes’
This is United’s worst start to a season since 1989/90. That means that this is worse than anything Louis van Gaal started with, and shockingly, it is also worse than anything the much-maligned David Moyes served up at the start of his short tenure.
United looked slow, clunky and predictable. It was fitting that their only goal came from a moment of unpredictability from Rashford. There are deep-rooted issues in the club, as they continue to drift down the table. Listless and directionless, United are in serious trouble.
Easy day for the Hammers’ defence
The predictable, slow build-up exhibited by United made it an easy day at the back for West Ham. In the Ferguson era, going 1-0 up against United early on was one of the worst things you could do, as it brought on wave after wave of pressure.
There was no such response from Mourinho’s charges, no clever movement, no tactical shift to pull the Hammers’ defence out of shape.
Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop were calm and confident, and after restricting Chelsea to a 0-0 draw, were probably underwhelmed by the toothless United attack. Lukasz Fabianski continued to show why he is one of the best shot-stoppers in the league with a fantastic save from Marouane Fellaini in the second half, but otherwise had an oddly relaxed afternoon.
West Ham producing results now
A month ago, West Ham were in trouble. Manuel Pellegrini was already under pressure as his side just could not pick up wins. Since then, they have turned things around. Their last three Premier League games have yielded a pair of 3-1 wins over Everton and United, as well as the aforementioned draw with Chelsea. Not a bad set of results for a team under pressure.
Arnautovic has been the key performer in the side, continuing his excellent form from the second half of last season, while Declan Rice is surely playing his way to a new and improved contract. Yarmolenko and Anderson have also begun to truly settle after their arrivals in the summer, and good times could be on the horizon for the Hammers.
Pogba can’t walk the walk
After his falling out with Jose Mourinho took another turn over the week, the onus was on Manchester United’s record signing to stand up and ingratiate himself to the travelling fans. Surprisingly given a starting spot following Mourinho’s decision to strip him of the vice-captaincy, Pogba was forgettable at best. After talking the talk in the media, he has failed to back things up with his play on the pitch, impressing infrequently.
Against West Ham, he was a passenger, offering little of substance. The fans let him know that too, giving him a frosty reception as he was substituted off. This rift will not heal soon.
The third season meltdown is truly underway
Another Mourinho managerial stint, another third season meltdown. Infighting, poor attitudes and terrible results are in-season at United, in a campaign that is beginning to resemble Mourinho’s final season at Chelsea. The Portuguese manager looks far from the elite coach he once was, and it is telling that the United squad look unmotivated and drained of self-belief.
His tactics were questionable, switching to a 3-5-2 with Scott McTominay at right centre-back. United’s defensive haplessness and lack of creativity, after the amount of money spent, is borderline criminal. This looks like it will end one way: with Mourinho out of a job, and United out of European competition. Again.