The gloom surrounding Manchester United intensified after Felipe Anderson, a Victor Lindelf own goal and Marko Arnautovic gave West Ham a 3-1 win
Clubs cannot win the Premier League by the end of September, but they can certainly lose it. And yet for Manchester United, the death or otherwise of their title challenge on a torturous afternoon at West Ham, felt like a footnote.
Their problems were written large on the open spaces of the London Stadium and on the back of last Saturdays home draw with Wolves and the Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Derby at Old Trafford, not to mention the civil unrest between Jos Mourinho and Paul Pogba, this was yet another low.
West Ham have stabilised after their four-game losing streak at the start of the season and it is worth remembering the anxiety that gripped after that final defeat at home to Wolves and in advance of fixtures against Everton, Chelsea and United. Yet Everton were beaten at Goodison Park and there was encouragement to be taken from the home draw against Chelsea.
This was another polished performance, but they did not need to be outstanding to ease past United.
Mourinho dropped the out-of-sorts Alexis Snchez, although he made him travel, and he demanded a reaction from his stuttering team. What he got only intensified the sense that something is broken at Old Trafford and he does not have the tact or tactics to find the solution.
Uniteds biggest problem remains their inability to break down well-organised defences; to pull them out of shape with front-foot football and that was once again in evidence.
There was no coherent offensive strategy, they did not move the ball quickly enough and they sleepwalked to a defeat that looked on the cards from the moment Felipe Anderson scored his first West Ham goal in the fifth minute.
Manuel Pellegrini, the West Ham manager, said he did not remember feeling any danger situations in our box and while there were a few it was plain from Uniteds point of view that there were not enough.
Pobga was anonymous and Mourinhos decision to substitute him on 70 minutes will invite further scrutiny of their relationship. But the marquee midfielder was not alone in showing a basic lack of hunger and drive.
The players in the pale pink could be questioned over their attitude, almost to a man and it was easy to wonder whether they were still giving their all for their manager.
With confidence low, United needed a good start. They did not get it. Mourinho argued that Pablo Zabaleta was offside when he took Mark Nobles pass and crossed for Anderson, who flicked home brilliantly with his trailing leg. It was difficult to tell, even after watching the replays.
Mourinho had included Scott McTominay on the right of a back-three and there cannot have been too many United line-ups over the years that boasted more height and physicality. The trade-off came in the lack of speed and movement. Where were the options for the player in possession when United ventured into West Ham territory? It was all so one-paced and the frustration could be seen in some of Pogbas reactions.
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