The United blame game: where did it all go wrong at Old Trafford?


Manchester United, the 20-time English champions, are guaranteed to finish with the lowest points of the Premier League era and are no longer eligible for the Champions League.

It comes after another humiliating defeat, this time against Brighton, with the shortcomings across the team becoming more apparent with every game played.


The four goals United conceded in an hour at Brighton took them to 56, their worst Premier League total and worst since 1978/79, when Stewart Houston and Tom Connell got games.

Caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick conceded that this season had been a “disaster”, condemning Saturday’s deplorable performance as “humiliating”. . . unacceptable” and apologized to the fans.

The Sussex confusion was an individual and collective defensive failure from the moment Alex Telles’ feeble header allowed Brighton’s opener through Victor Lindelof’s legs.

The second goal was even more blood-curdling. Not for the first or last time, Diogo Dalot failed to pull himself together to retrace when the effervescent Leandro Trossard sauntered to the sidelines.

When the Belgian shot at Marc Cucurella rather than risk life and limb or even risk a challenge, Lindelof turned his back on him like a child confronted by the school bully. If running away was an option, he would certainly have taken it.

If Dalot and Telles were the disasters nobody had to wait for and Lindelof is the answer to nobody’s question, United have transformed Raphael Varane from one of Europe’s most elegant centre-backs into one for whom the basics are a step too far.

Varane’s most notable contribution was a pathetic, sloppy cut by Robert Sanchez’s hoof-forward that prompted Danny Welbeck to shoot over David De Gea’s bar.


Where to start In the eighth minute, when Juventus’ Nemanja Matic assessed his chances in the center circle before rolling the ball wide? The 17th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo intelligently ran down the inside left channel into space, only for Dalot to smack a pass into the unkempt prairie of the inside right channel?

The 54th minute when Bruno Fernandes saw two United players run into space before playing the ball past both? The list goes on and on. . .


In theory, United were formed to protect and expand, with Matic and Scott McTominay holding the center in front of the back four, freeing Fernandes, Juan Mata and Anthony Elanga to serve Ronaldo. In practice, United lacked drive, creativity and commitment.

Matic, mentally at least on the plane to Turin, and an overwhelmed McTominay were overrun by the enraged Moises Caicedo and the brutally effective Yves Bissouma. Fernandes was stubborn and peripheral; Never lightning fast, these days Mata lacks something approaching pace; Elanga was muscular at every turn of his 45-minute calvary.


Without a dominant figure to evoke memories of Alex Ferguson’s teams, where almost everyone from Ronny Johnsen to Roy Keane thrived on responsibilities while jostling for individual leadership roles, the United of 2022 resembles a bevy of dysfunctional divorcees who fight over the dishes as their house burns.

With slumped shoulders, a constantly shaking head and hands welded to his hips, the nominal captain berated Fernandes Telles for crossing (badly, of course) rather than returning an early pass.

Fernandes was still berating him an hour later after Solly March was once again waltzed through unchallenged by the Brazilian.

With no sense of camaraderie, Lindelof yelled so long and loud about Dalot’s sloppy positioning for a free-kick that the Swede was out of contention when the free-kick was taken. United’s kids were intimidated but the old hands weren’t moving forward.

Mata, so often United’s bringer of joy, was almost as cheerless as the others, although his dedication is unquestionable, while Ronaldo’s eye-rolling and rueful smile was arguably his greatest contribution.


The crowning glory of Ronaldo’s evening was a first-half free-kick from the edge of the box which, after all that signature flexing of the cheeks and shoulders, landed in row z to the glee of dizzying home loyalty.

Edinson Cavani added a touch of oomph in the second half but he added irony to the insult, only when Harry Maguire was introduced late in the middle half did United threaten in earnest.


United seemed surprised when Brighton attacked through full-backs March and Cucurella, as they have done for most of the season. Dalot and Telles may be figureheads for this struggling United side, but no significant support has been offered to the unfortunate couple. In contrast, Trossard and Pascal Gross formed unstoppable tag teams with their full-backs.

At half-time, Rangnick turned off two midfielders and switched to 4-4-2 in a move he regretted, leaving the huge problem his side faced unchallenged. As a result, Brighton scored three goals in the 15 minutes after the restart. To reinforce the Brighton feeling at the end of the semester, her manager Graham Potter conducted the public concert ‘We Want Five’. It felt like the end of all days for United.


It may be forgotten as United picked up the rubble of the ensuing fiasco, but before kick-off, when the starting XI remained unchanged after defeating Brentford, the traveling fans were the loudest in encouragement. However, they were soon howling at their own players and the Glazers while praising Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A couple of totally inappropriate flares were a reminder of the lack of flair on the pitch but when Mata was substituted he went in front of the United section and received nothing but applause. After the final whistle, Dalot, a little more defiant than before, faced the hordes who chanted “You’re not fit enough to wear the jersey”. If anything summed up United’s evening, it was this. (©Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] The United blame game: where did it all go wrong at Old Trafford?

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