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Manchester United’s disturbing trend – repeated failures against top Premier League contenders

Manchester United folded on another high-profile Premier League travel last weekend, slipping to a 1-0 loss at fellow top-four rivals Newcastle United on Saturday.

Hopeful of atoning for a gut-wrenching 3-3 draw at Galatasaray in midweek Champions League action, albeit plagued by injuries, the Red Devils sought amends at St James’ Park.

Instead, Eddie Howe’s injury-hit squad outclassed United, with the home side’s xG of 2.98 best illustrating the Magpies’ dominance in Saturday’s showdown on Tyneside.

Man Utd headed into proceedings as the most in-form side in England’s top flight, having racked up five wins in six prior league outings, including a 3-0 demolition of Everton a week before.

Erik ten Hag’s men took full advantage of a relatively kind set of games to build a head of steam ahead of their revenge-poised trip to Newcastle, a side that walloped them 3-0 in the League Cup earlier this season.

Following a string of decent domestic results, they might have felt upbeat about beating a Magpies side decimated by injuries and mentally exhausted after a controversial 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet, a tendency to slip up against clubs from the upper half of the table contributed to United’s near-busted bid to secure a top-four finish last term.

That habit continues to hinder their progress this season.

A whopping ten defeats from 11 away Premier League encounters against top-nine sides (D1) is borderline embarrassing for a Man Utd side who spent circa £200 million since ten Hag’s arrival last summer.

Going this long without a win against direct competitors is unacceptable for a club of Man Utd’s stature and ambition.

Fans are looking for someone to point fingers at, and the Dutch manager will likely fall victim to desperation streaming through the club supporters’ veins amid a dreadful start to the new campaign.

Ten Hag could search for excuses in a severe injury crisis, but it would merely defend Saturday’s abysmal performance, which forms part of a larger pattern.

Since he took charge of the Old Trafford outfit in the summer of 2022, the Red Devils have fared terribly against big guns.

It’s mostly the same squad that, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure two years ago, set an unprecedented Premier League feat, going undefeated on 29 travels between February 2020 and October 2021.

Under the Dutchman, Man Utd fans have forgotten the sense of thrill on the road, growing accustomed to disappointments that keep coming at an alarming rate.

And it’s not just about losing but the manner in which they lose.

Six of United’s 11 trips to face top-half opposition under ten Hag have seen them draw a blank, not to mention they conceded multiple goals on nine occasions.

One can argue they were unlucky to lose 3-1 at Arsenal in September and 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur a month before, but it’s hard to explain how that tends to happen game after game.

It’s not just a stroke of bad luck. It’s an ominous pattern. And it must stop sooner rather than later.