Manchester United fell to a 6-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford | Pool/Getty Images
Pitiful, woeful, terrible, awful, embarrassing, shocking, very bad, really bad, repugnant, not particularly good.
These are just some of the pejorative adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe Manchester United’s defensive performance against Tottenham on Sunday.
This was a humiliation, pure and simple. Even before Anthony Martial was dismissed for a childish push to Erik Lamela’s beautiful face, United’s defending was downright offensive.
A hard day at the office for Solskjaer | Pool/Getty Images
It did not have to be this way either. Just two minutes in, the Red Devils went ahead with Bruno Fernandes adding another converted penalty to his ever increasing collection. Ironically, this came courtesy of some comical defending from Spurs.
Fernandes was at the centre, laying the the ball into the path of Martial, who sped in front of Davinson Sanchez’s laboured challenge before crashing to the ground after feeling the contact.
This calamity would simply act as an appetiser to the four course meal of defensive mishaps that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would serve up soon after. This was a fine dining experience, as well. The scallops, steak, creme brûlée and sorbet of rubbish defending. A Michelin star treat for fans of footballing sh** shows across the world.
Full-time.#MUFC #MUNTOT @Chevrolet
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 4, 2020
First up, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire – who cost a combined £115m by the way – decided it would be a good idea to twice head the ball towards their own goal, despite 150 years of footballing history suggesting otherwise. Their errors allowed Tanguy Ndombele to level the scores.
On closer inspection this goal was particularly bizarre. It appears that at one point, Maguire was pulling back his own left-back Luke Shaw, preventing him from clearing the ball. What the former Leicester man was trying to accomplish remains a mystery.
Next up, the Chuckle Brothers combined once again to hand Spurs the lead. Maguire clattered into Harry Kane and the England skipper’s quick thinking allowed him to catch out a sleeping Bailly with a probing through ball to Son Heung-min, who finished with aplomb.
Not content with two comedy mishaps, United then gifted their opponents a third goal but not before Martial got himself sent off for the world’s worst slap on Lamela. It was a naive moment from a player who really should know better.
Bailly took centre stage for the third goal, rolling a lazy pass straight down Kane’s throat, who showed good composure to offload and finish the return ball. The Ivorian, who lest we forget had been touted as the answer to his side’s defensive woes, was also culpable for goal number four. He was slow to get round to the front post, which allowed Son to add his second without breaking sweat.
Going into the break, Solskjaer will have surely instructed his jaded players to keep things tight early in the second half. Did they listen? No, they did not. Five minutes in, Paul Pogba decided not to track his runner, allowing Serge Aurier to add a fifth goal.
Pogba then further disgraced himself 13 minutes from time, diving in rashly and bringing Ben Davies down, giving away a penalty in the process. 6-1.
So what do this truly stinky performance say about United as a whole?
Not sure why you’re smiling to be honest | Pool/Getty Images
Well, there was a certain irony in the man who repeatedly asked the Old Trafford board for a centre-back during his time at the club, Jose Mourinho, is the one whose team has brutally exposed his former side’s defensive shortcomings. Perhaps Ed Woodward should have listened after all?
Edinson Cavani and Alex Telles are both said to be close to signing, but after a performance like that you have to ask, why? Maguire, Bailly and the majority of United’s midfield look utterly incapable of even the most basic defensive tasks. A highly paid 33-year-old striker and someone who is a full-back in name only is unlikely to help with that.
It’s classic United once again. Struggling to get deals over the line, and when they do, they are not necessarily for the right players.
Solskjaer should perhaps shoulder some of the blame for this capitulation as well. Mentally, United crumbled today. Being coached poorly is one thing, but lacking heart and desire is much worse and setting that positive mentality comes from the manager.
Can Cavani play centre-back? | JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/Getty Images
If results do not improve, the temptation to move for an out of work Mauricio Pochettino will surely prove too alluring for even the most staunch of the Norwegian’s defenders.
Sunday was a truly depressing day for anyone associated with United. Just three games into the new Premier League season, all of the club’s post-lockdown promise seems to have disappeared overnight.
A lot of people need to do a lot of soul searching over the next several days. This was not only embarrassing, it was also entirely unacceptable.