Quite apart from the impact they could have on the Premier League title race, Manchester United badly needed a result to get their own campaign back on track on Wednesday night.
Yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not deliver as they surrendered 2-0 at home to Manchester City.
The result puts the reigning champions back at the top of the tree, a point ahead of Liverpool.
As for United, the table makes worrying reading.
The Red Devils now trail fourth-placed Chelsea by three points and on top of that, they have a significantly inferior goal difference.
The collective response to the 4-0 drubbing at Everton felt somewhat reactive, but a second defeat in four days proved that there are real causes for concern at Old Trafford right now.
Not least, the form of David de Gea raised eyebrows once again, the Spaniard arguably at fault for Bernardo Silva’s goal and unquestionably culpable for Leroy Sane’s strike.
The introduction of Matteo Darmian, making his first start since January, failed to shore things up at the back, although he coped with City’s threat in the first half.
Yet it’s at the other end of the pitch that Solskjaer will be most alarmed. This time around, the responsibility of breaking down City fell to Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard up top.
No individual player is to blame, but United journalist Andy Mitten pointed out at full-time that the club have now gone eight hours and 47 minutes without scoring from open play.
What’s more, they haven’t netted at all in the last four hours and 40 minutes.
In that time, they’ve also conceded 13 goals, crashing out of the Champions League to Barcelona in the process.
The City defeat was their seventh in nine games in all competitions, the first time United have suffered such a streak since 1962.
Solskjaer’s honeymoon period is well and truly over and United have been brought back to earth since the baby-faced assassin was handed a permanent contract. The run of 14 wins in his first 17 games seems a distant memory now.
It’s far too early to say that the wheels are falling off, but the Norwegian certainly has his work cut out to ensure his players can still end the season on a positive note.
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