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Abject United stumble again

Manchester-United-v-West-Bromwich-Albion-Premier-League-2315539“There’ll be more days like last Sunday” said David Moyes during the week, as he illustrated the transition Manchester United are going through at this moment in time. Well, David, thanks for the reminder but you shouldn’t have bothered to press your point home so swiftly.

Today’s defeat against West Bromwich, United’s first at Old Trafford against the Baggies since 1978, won’t hurt as much as last Sunday’s derby shellacking but is, in many ways, much, much worse than the abject performance that led to capitulate against a side that lost to Aston Villa today.

Granted, Wednesday’s win against Liverpool had done its bit to boost the morale but, to be brutally honest, the only surprising aspect about today’s defeat is that some people will find it surprising, for United’s shortcomings, which were systematically laid bare today, had been visible for quite some time.

A day that had started positively with Ashley Young nowhere near the squad and the creativity we had been craving for so long ended in disappointment, as West Bromwich delivered a masterclass in terms of organisation and diligence on the pitch. With Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans tormented to no end by Victor Anichebe and Anderson making Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano look like a mixture between Diego Maradona and Ruud Gullit, United’s gameplan crumbled under their feet.

A remarkably boring first half in which the only chance fell to Saido Berahino, whose header skimmed away from the post, saw Nani confirming that he’s incredibly better than Ashley Young in terms of delivering crosses into the box, but infinitely worse when it comes to beat the first man from a corner.

United reemerged with Adnan Januzaj in place of Shinji Kagawa, before Berahino tested David De Gea’s reflexes after Sessegnon had cut at will through United’s non-existent midfield and rather shaky defence. David Moyes came under intense criticism last week for his decision to play Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic for three consecutive games but, despite being rested against Liverpool, Ferdinand was again exposed time and again by his direct opponent.

But then again, the man will be 35 in November and it’d be ridiculous to expect him to perform like a player 10 years his junior, while when it comes to Anderson, regardless of his age, expecting him to perform is ridiculous, period. Truth be told, the Brazilian displayed a little more dynamism than in his usual “broken washing machine in the middle of a desert” configuration, but his passing was more wayward than a man firing an AK-47 blindfolded.

Albion deservedly took the lead after Amalfitano proceeded to annihilate United’s back four, nutmegging Ferdinand in the process, before scooping the ball over the onrushing De Gea, who must be wondering why, all of a sudden, he sees strikers arriving in the box from every direction.

United were soon level, thanks to another freekick from Wayne Rooney, who was again wearing the armband and who again looked like the only United player remotely interested in the outcome of the game. Robin Van Persie replaced Javier Hernandez, but rather than push in search of three points, Unite were again pegged back and conceded a second, through a fantastic finish from Berahino.

Anderson was mercifully taken off, but Marouane Fellaini failed to lift United’s midfield from the utter torpor that pervaded them for the whole 90 minutes, to the point when even Michael Carrick looked completely lost and ineffectual as United looked painfully devoid of ideas in the last two thirds of the pitch.

Fellaini had a goal rightly disallowed for off-side as United looked for an equaliser, which did not arrive, heaping even more pressure on David Moyes, who should be allowed all the time he needs, however. Six games into the Premier League season are all it took for the full extent of the problems caused by United’s shambolic transfer window to come to the fore.

Expect more in the near future.