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United’s final Swansong?

Wilfried Bony Swansea CityThey say that when it rains, it pours. As far as Manchester United are concerned, this season is shaping up to be a downpour of biblical proportion, rather than some traditionally insistent Mancunian rain.

Transition, decline, widespread ineptitude. Call it which way you want, but whatever it is it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Not now, not tomorrow, not until the end of the season. Not, in fact, for a while.

If 2014 had started off with the wrong foot after defeat at home against Spurs on New Year’s Day, today’s performance did very little to leave us the impression that the first half of the season was going to be a nightmare from which we’d all suddenly wake up, for United crumbled, haplessly, on home turf yet again.

The numbers – United’s fourth defeat in the last six games at Old Trafford, Swansea’s first ever win away at Manchester United and a first third round elimination since 2010 – don’t even begin to describe another terrifying afternoon, one during which United looked at their limits, acknowledged them and then conspired to plunge even deeper.

With a squad decimated by injuries, David Moyes’ hand was forced into picking the usual, archaic, 4-4-2 with Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck up-front and Antonio Valencia and Shinji Kagawa out wide, while Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley patrolled the middle third of the park.

Valencia’s only contribution was being replaced by Adnan Januzaj midway through the second half, while Kagawa looked marginally better than in other outings but did little to dismiss the notion that the only thing Moyes could do to bring the best out of him would be to ship him back to Dortmund, with a note in which the club apologises for forcing the Japanese to swap German lager for Boddington over the last two seasons.

Fletcher, meanwhile, put it a typically efficient shift, which speaks volume for the paucity of options at United’s disposal, while Cleverley produced yet another predictably insipid and dull performance, one during which he treated a forward pass like an entity capable to cause havoc among humanity, such was his reluctancy to hit one.

At the back, Rio Ferdinand took a break from flogging clothes of dubious quality on social media to take his place in the middle of the back four and duly obliging to let Swansea in with their first chance of the game. Wilfried Bony’s lay-off to Pozuelo was followed by a brilliant through ball for Wayne Routledge, who chipped the on-rushing Anders Lindegaard with Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans too busy chasing shadows to intervene.

Less than three minutes later, United were level as Alex Buttner confirmed that he’s far less of a liability going forward than he’s when defending and hit a delightful cross which was turned in by Javier Hernandez.

The Dutchman gets a lot of justified criticism for his defensive game, but remains the only United player whose corners are capable to beat the first man, which speaks volume for the sorry state of affairs at Old Trafford, while Hernandez’s goal was one he very much needed, but one he could not add to, given United opted not to have a single shot on goal in the second half.

The second period, instead, saw United lethargically going about their game, like a wash-out rockstar who finds himself unable to sing a karaoke at the local pub less than 12 months after headlining Glastonbury, with David Moyes’ men looking atrociously bereft of ideas and devoid of momentum.

The United manager will undoubtedly come under intense scrutiny after another hopeless performance, but questions have to be asked about the club and the way Malcolm Glazers and his trusted accomplice have bled Manchester United dry allowing the club to implode so catastrophically.

Eight months ago, United lifted the title, today they look like a side incapable of beating a mid-table side, let alone challenging for trophies, but at least decline has been swift and sharp, rather than protracted and painful.

Ferdinand’s injury – potentially the last time we saw him for the club – allowed Fabio a rare opportunity to run onto the pitch, before he ran back off again four minutes later, after Mike Dean had deemed his challenge on Canas worthy of a straight red and sent the Brazilian for an early shower.

Then, predictably and inevitably, Wiflried Bony headed Wayne Routledge’s cross past Lindegaard to put Swansea through to the fourth round.

We never fancied a trip to Birmingham, Crawley or Bristol anyway, did we?

Dan