|United were not up to the minimum standard on Sunday at Watford|
With the greatest of respect to Walter Mazzari and all the good meaning folk at Watford, Manchester United should not be losing to them. The manner of it was all the more appalling.
Here is a team blessed with solutions to various game-requirements throughout the squad but currently struggling to find the right solution for each game. As with most things about a football team, the buck stops with the manager but the players on display did little to absolve themselves from the fallout of the club's second straight league defeat.
Whilst the superstitious curse the timing of the first International break of the season (United are yet to win since), the are more scientific explanation around the current mess that is Manchester United. For a team that is supposed to be blessed with one of the more accomplished midfields in the country, something is not quite right in the middle of the park.
At the risk of scapegoating we need to consider the individual personnel. Marouanne Fellaini and Paul Pogba are, on paper at least asked to cover the back four with the Frenchman having license to roam from box to box. It leaves a very immobile Belgian who is vulnerable to opponents quicker on the ball. Cue vulnerability No.1.
Wayne Rooney is, at least on paper and indeed shirt number, the Number 10 of the team. Whilst his duties primarily lie in attack under the new regime, he has struggled to shed his 'midfield colours' so much so that his heat map has him looking for passes behind Fellaini and looking to spread them anywhere between a United player and lots of grass around. As such, United are often times lacking a link between the midfield and attack when in transition. It slows down the team's ability to hit on the break.
Whilst Jose Mourinho said he preferred to have specialists in his team, playing to their strengths, it is hardly the case with this United team. There seems to be more of an inheritance of the positional improvisation the club has been about since the days of Sir Alex as opposed to a strict adherence to specialisation.
United for instance still have Antonio Valencia as a right back, something you thought would never happen again after Wembley 2011 against Barcelona. The same positional uncertainty could be said about Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba but most crucially Wayne Rooney.
United have had four managers since Sir Alex retired but none of them seem to have addressed the big elephant in the room surrounding the club captain. Formations and tactics have been switched to accommodate the England captain the team even at the expense of more accomplished players but little seems to have changed about United.
At Watford on Sunday, United looked every bit as bad as they could tactically be. Conceding two goals borne of the same tactical flaw was perhaps more concerning that anything. There was no sophistication to the method Watford used to get two shots at David De Gea's goal with no pressure applied to the ball.
There is a slackness about United that flies in the face of the wages the squad are on. Consider that Liverpool have run 55km more than United in the league and it starts to make sense. Thankfully for United, all is not doom and gloom for them. They have within their ranks the solutions to snap out of their slumber. This makes it double as frustrating as well.
A trio of quick intelligent playmakers will form the heart of whatever good Jose Mourinho does with this Manchester United side. Two of them were available for the opening weekend against Bournemouth and it told. They've since struggled to get in the side because somewhere in the middle of the park or just off the striker, we need to accommodate the captain.
There is a school of thought that rather than come out and drop his captain, Jose Mourinho would allow the Englishman to play himself out of the team. Whether the Portuguese would go that far to making a point remains debatable but at the moment, with or without Wayne Rooney, United are in free fall. Mourinho himself had a bad last spell at Chelsea but he never lost three on the bounce!Something's got to give.
If that run stretches to four, then come Wednesday evening, the club could already be looking back at the first exit from a Cup competition this season! And it's still September!