Manchester United supporters will have been cursing their side as they succumbed to a disappointing 2-0 away defeat to West Ham United, putting in a particularly sub-par performance.
True, their opponents have started the new Premier League campaign well, with Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini praising his side as they become “more consistent and more solid”, but it still should have been a seen as a game that Manchester United would come out of victorious.
At least, it should if their ambitions of getting back to a top-four finish are to be met.
Based on the performance at the London Stadium, those ambitions are still a long way off becoming a reality.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men fell to goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell as they stuttered and stumbled their way to the final whistle, much to the frustrations of their travelling fans.
Ukrainian Yarmolenko scored the opening goal on the stroke of half-time when he drilled a low finish past the stretching David de Gea. The strike rounded off some impressive, patient build-up play from West Ham, involving both Mark Noble and Felipe Anderson – in essence, both the traditional and new-look styles of West Ham.
Aaron Cresswell added a bit of magic to the game when his sweetly struck free kick nestled in de Gea’s top corner, sealing all three points for the Hammers.
As a game of football, it was hardly a classic. Following a first half sparse of many chances before Yarmolenko’s opener, Manchester United should have equalised moments into the second half when Juan Mata failed to hit the target after connecting well with a low cross from Andreas Pereira.
After that, West Ham solidified significantly, defending their breakthrough resolutely before Cresswell doubled the advantage. Perhaps even more worrying for Manchester United supporters, they saw striker Marcus Rashford – who was poor for much of the game – forced off through a groin injury in the second half.
The injury leaves the Red Devils with no fit, recognised striker in their squad. Instead, Solskjaer’s men now face the prospect of relying on their wingers, creative midfielders and young prospects to step up to the demanding striking berth; not quite ideal when you’re targeting a return to the top four.
Yes, it was a good result and a solid performance for Pellegrini’s West Ham, but it must be an evergrowing concern for Manchester United.
Rather than seeing their side rediscover their status as a top side, they increasingly are watching their team falter at lower and lower hurdles, and all the while the very top sides of the Premier League race away from them.