Not for the first time in recent years, Manchester United appeared to tunnel their way through rock bottom to find a new low in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Brentford.
All four of the goals scored by Thomas Frank’s rampant, brilliant hosts came inside 35 minutes. United had never been that far behind at such an early stage of a Premier League game as they plummeted towards the bottom of the table and back-to-back defeats to start the season for the first time since 1992/93.
Of course, Alex Ferguson led United all the way to the title 30 years ago, but such a recovery is the stuff of fantasy for newly appointed manager Erik ten Hag.
Liverpool are up next at Old Trafford, with the gulf between the best in the division and where United currently lie set to be brutally exposed once more.
By the time they make the short trip to Stretford, it will be 302 days since Liverpool’s previous visit. United weren’t in great shape then. Since, they have been in utter disarray — a story that is grimly outlined by the thrashings below.
MORE: How Brentford inflicted the latest humiliating defeat on Manchester United
October 24, 2021: Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool
After a second-placed finish and a run to the Europa League final in 2020/21, Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the final piece in the puzzle for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, joining as he did after Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Ronaldo’s initial use was bailing United out of trouble in Champions League games against Villarreal and Atalanta and their Premier League form was failing by the time Liverpool came to town.
A run of three winless league games was extended in the most brutal fashion as Mohamed Salah’s brace added to early goals from Naby Keita and Diogo Jota to make it 4-0 at half-time. Salah completed his hat-trick early in the second half, and when substitute Paul Pogba was sent off for a horror challenge on Keita, it felt like it could end up being any score. Liverpool showed a degree of mercy.
November 20, 2021: Watford 4-1 Manchester United
Solskjaer survived that ordeal and even led United to a 3-0 win at Tottenham to herald the end of Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure in north London. But a sapping 2-0 derby defeat at home to Manchester City left him staring down the barrel.
Watford boss Claudio Ranieri would also be sacked by January and the Hornets ended the season relegated. However, that not-so-potent combination did not make things any easier for United and Solskjaer. Josh King and Ismaila Sarr gave Watford a 2-0 lead before that perpetual reminder of what might have been, Donny van de Beek, pulled one back. Then Harry Maguire clumsily collected a second yellow card and any hopes of a late rally from the 10 men were extinguished by late goals from Emmanuel Dennis and Joao Pedro. Solskjaer was sacked in the aftermath.
March 6, 2022: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
In came Ralf Rangnick with his initially lauded combination of home-truths and high-pressing football. The United team rarely looked fit for purpose when it came to the ‘Godfather of Gegenpressing’ and his methodology, but there was a recovery of sorts. Between the Watford game and the return Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, they lost only once in 20 games, albeit with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup coming in the midst of that run.
Arguably the reason that this defeat sent things towards the ongoing doom spiral is the simple fact that United played quite well in the first half. Sancho scored a wonderful goal in between Kevin De Bruyne’s brace and they were perhaps a touch unfortunate to be behind at the break. Then City didn’t let them have the ball for 45 minutes, belief slowly draining from every player in red. Riyad Mahrez scored twice and things began to completely fall apart.
April 19, 2022: Liverpool 4-0 Manchester United
United’s only two wins between the derby and their visit to Anfield came courtesy of Ronaldo hat-tricks against Tottenham and Norwich. Rangnick was supposed to be the man to deliver a cohesive collective footballing vision, but that was failing aside from those occasions when they were bailed out by the great soloist.
Ronaldo was absent at Anfield after the tragic death of his baby son and United were clueless in his absence. Luis Diaz and Salah ended the game as a contest inside the first 22 minutes. After 10 minutes, Pogba hobbled off in the last act of his United career. Sadio Mane and Salah added a little more garnish to the scoreline. They were playing a husk.
May 7, 2022: Brighton 4-0 Manchester United
United’s squad seemed to be counting the days towards the end of the season and Rangnick’s interim tenure after the loss at Anfield, never more so than in this pitiful surrender to Brighton.
Moises Caicedo gave Albion a 15th-minute lead but Graham Potter’s men brought the house down in the second period. Marc Cucurella, Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard all got in on the act, with the only surprise that no further punishment followed the latter’s 60th-minute goal.
August 13, 2022: Brentford 4-0 Manchester United
Brighton made a nuisance of themselves again to sour Ten Hag’s introduction on the first day of this season. United got off lightly only losing 2-1, but there would be no escape against a relentless Brentford.
David de Gea flimsily let Josh Dasilva’s 10th-minute drive through his palms and into the net before Christian Eriksen was unceremoniously dispossessed by Mathias Jensen, who made it 2-0. United’s set piece frailties were capitalised upon by Ben Mee before Ivan Toney brilliantly teed up Bryan Mbeumo for a superb counter-attacking fourth.
Next, it’s back to the scene of the original footballing crime against Liverpool. All the best, Erik.