As Manchester United’s 2021/22 season draws to a calamitous close, the Red Devils are on the verge of their worst points total for 31 years.
22 days is how long Man United fans have to wait to put this dreadful, painful and pitiful campaign behind them. Taking nine points from three bottom-half teams would seem a feasible task however United have not won three consecutive games all season.
United currently have 55 points from 35 league games and they can finish the season with a maximum 64 points, which would match the club’s lowest tally in the Premier League era. One would have to go back to 1991 for the last time United ended a league campaign with fewer than 60 points.
The hangover season of 2013/14 saw David Moyes string 57 points from 34 matches before he was booted, and United salvaged an additional seven points from their final four games under caretaker Ryan Giggs. Even Louis van Gaal twice managed to scrape at least 65 points during his ill-fated reign which saw United take a total 19 draws – eight of them ending 0-0. United never collected fewer than 75 points across 21 PL seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson.
There are some desperately sorry statistics which sum up United’s season up until this point. For instance they have won 15 of 35 league games this term, representing a 42 per cent win rate. In addition United have scored two more league goals than they have conceded and they could end the season with a single-digit goal difference for the first time in more than three decades. Moreover, United have let in 22 goals across eight matches against the current top four teams.
United‘s only positive result in their last six outings came against bottom-of-the-table Norwich City, as Cristiano Ronaldo‘s hat-trick rescued all three points for Ralf Rangnick’s ailing and dysfunctional side. In that time United have conceded 12 goals in 540 minutes of action, something that Erik ten Hag will urgently need to address as soon as he takes charge from July 1.
United travelled to Liverpool and the final result was written on the wall before the first whistle had been blown. Four changes were made from the narrow victory against Norwich three days earlier, most significantly Cristiano Ronaldo who was granted compassionate leave following the death of his newborn son the day prior to United’s visit to Anfield. Phil Jones earned a second league start of the season as Rangnick opted for a defensive line-up featuring a back five. Aaron Wan-Bissaka started over Alex Telles, Nemanja Matić came in for Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford took the starting spot of Jadon Sancho.
Liverpool were ahead within five minutes after kick-off as United's backline was permeated by shrewd and constructive passing on Liverpool's part, and Luis Díaz put the hosts in front much to the delight of the Anfield crowd. Paul Pogba lasted nine minutes before limping off with an apparent calf injury, and Lingard was thrown into the action.
United were as wasteful on the ball as they were fearful and gutless of off it. Liverpool ran circles around United's absent midfield and abhorrent defence, and Liverpool doubled their lead inside 23 minutes when Sadio Mané's audacious ball was met by Mohamed Salah who tucked it away for 2-0.
Díaz netted his second of the night but was flagged for offside on 35 minutes. Liverpool slightly took their foot off the gas leading up to half-time, but they returned to their potent best in the second stanza. Mané got in on the action to triple the lead with a quarter of the 90 to play.
Things went from bad to worse for United in the closing minutes as Liverpool extended their unassailable advantage to four goals. Harry Maguire played a disastrous lofted ball which saw debutant Hannibal Mejbri dispossessed by Andrew Robertson, paving the way for Salah to notch his second and Liverpool's fourth.
United registered two shots all game (compared to 14 by Liverpool) and the gulf between the two sides is greater now than it has been since the late 1980s. Liverpool secured its first domestic double over United since 2013/14 and, following the 5-0 demolition at Old Trafford in October, Jürgen Klopp's men ran out 9-0 winners across both fixtures.
F/T Liverpool 4 - 0 Man United
The morning after a heavy defeat to the club’s arch rivals, correspondent Andy Mitten reported United’s chief scout Jim Lawlor and head of global scouting Marcel Bout were to both leave the club. Lawlor departs after 16 years working at United, while Bout was promoted in 2016 after joining as part of Louis van Gaal’s coaching staff two years prior.
For United's trip to Arsenal, Rangnick made five changes to his starting line-up as Ronaldo returned to the XI, as did Raphaël Varane, Scott McTominay, Sancho, and Telles. Maguire was benched following an alleged bomb scare at his family home (not to mention a handful of tepid performances by the United skipper). Rashford, Wan-Bissaka and Jones also dropped to the bench.
Arsenal went ahead inside three minutes with thanks to more dreadful defending on United’s part. Nuno Tavares bundled the ball over the line after David de Gea parried Bukayo Saka’s attempt at goal. Bruno Fernandes should have drawn level for United but he saw his shot go wide of the mark, and Diogo Dalot struck the crossbar on 24 minutes.
The Gunners’ doubled their advantage through Eddie Nketiah but the striker was ruled offside by VAR, however Mikel Arteta’s men were subsequently awarded a penalty for a foul by Telles on Saka directly before Nketiah had found the net, and Saka converted from the spot. Ronaldo halved the deficit two minutes later, connecting with Matić’s ball into the middle, for what was the Portuguese forward’s 100th goal in the Premier League.
United's frustrations were exacerbated in the second half with several chances gone astray. United were awarded a spot-kick of their own ten minutes into the second half, but Fernandes struck the base of the post despite sending Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way. Ronaldo scored for a second time but was narrowly deemed offside by VAR, and Dalot hit the goal frame once again as Ramsdale got a hand to the full-back’s shot.
United could have and should have been back on level terms but they were made to pay for their extensive profligacy. Granit Xhaka launched a long-range effort which left de Gea wrong-footed as the Emirates Stadium erupted. Matić and Anthny Elanga were withdrawn for Rashford and Lingard, before Fernandes made way for Mata.
There was no way back for United and despite spells of improved football they tasted defeat for a third time in four games and for the first time since 1981, United suffered four straight league defeats away from home.
F/T Arsenal 3 - 1 Man United
A dejected United side played its third game in ten days as Chelsea came to town for a Thursday night showdown at Old Trafford. As many as seven senior players were absent which saw United call up four youth players to the matchday squad, including the uncapped duo of Alejandro Garnacho and Alvaro Fernández.
There was just a single change to the XI as Rashford took the spot of Sancho who was ruled out with tonsillitis. Pogba and Edinson Cavani may have already appeared in a United shirt for the final time as both their contracts expire in nine weeks’ time.
Unlike against Liverpool and Arsenal, United did not concede inside the opening five minutes albeit Chelsea failed at converting their many chances. The Blues registered 11 shots, five on target, in the first half as United afforded Chelsea plenty space in wide areas, specifically down the right channels.
Thomas Tuchel’s team eventually broke the deadlock on the hour mark as Marco Alonso volleyed past countryman de Gea. The play developed through Reece James who delivered the ball into the danger area where Kai Havertz met the ball with a header and Alonso unleashed a first-time volley into the bottom corner.
United responded barely two minutes later as Ronaldo lashed in a thunderous strike at the Stretford End, made possible by a crafty dinked pass by Matić. Matić was United’s best midfielder, but the 34-year-old struggles to get through the full 90 minutes and he was replaced by Jones, while Rashford made way for Juan Mata on the Spaniard’s 34th birthday.
17-year-old Alejandro Garnacho was awarded with his senior debut albeit a two-minute cameo did not allow for the Argentine to register a touch of the ball.
The contest ended all-square despite Chelsea having 21 shots compared to United’s six. The race for the top four is now all but over for United, trailing 4th-placed Arsenal by five points and having played two games more than the Gunners.
F/T Man United 1 - 1 Chelsea
United have taken five points from the 18 on offer during the month of April, and Ronaldo has scored eight of the team’s last nine goals. The morning after the stalemate with Chelsea it was announced Rangnick would be taking up the position as head coach of the Austria national team starting next season, in tandem with his impending consultancy role at Old Trafford.
After the news earlier this month that United’s chief scout Jim Lawlor and its head of global scouting Marcel Bout were to both leave the club, it was reported on Friday that Matt Judge has left the club with immediate effect. Judge was the director of football negotiations after he had been promoted from head of corporate development.
Further reinforcements are expected behind the scenes with United believed to be seeking a deputy director of football to assist John Murtough in dealing with the club's footballing matters.
Rumours have linked United with the prospective addition of Manchester-born Paul Mitchell, who has been tipped for a return to his hometown as he approaches the end of his tenure as sporting director at AS Monaco. Rangnick and Mitchell have developed a strong professional relationship since working together at RB Leipzig.
Just three fixtures remain until this dour season is officially in the past. United play their final home game as Brentford make the trip to M16, before the Red Devils are on the road to Brighton and Hove Albion followed by a closing day contest with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Man United upcoming fixtures:
2 May - Brentford (H)
7 May - Brighton (A)
22 May - Crystal Palace (A)