The Premier League table does not make for pretty reading for those connected to the Old Trafford giants, leading pressure to mount on under-fire manager Jose Mourinho.
Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Liverpool leaves United 19 points behind the league-leading Reds after just 17 matches, along with an 11-point gap to the top-four.
Jesse Lingard had cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener at Anfield, only for second-half super-sub Xherdan Shaqiri’s deflected brace to leave the visitors reeling.
“It’s disappointing,” United captain Young said, looking understandably pained. “I don’t think there’s much more we can say.
“Obviously there’s two deflections but at times when we got back into the game at 1-1, I think we could have gone on to win the game.
“But it wasn’t meant to be and, like I say, it’s disappointing.”
Nursing the wounds of a chastening loss, Young was monosyllabic straight after United’s latest disappointment.
“It is always disappointing to obviously concede,” he said. “I think we were containing them. There was a lot of pressure obviously in the second half, which we knew (would come).
“I didn’t think they were going to score, then obviously the two deflected goals, you know, it deflates us and obviously they go on to win the game.
“Like I say, it’s definitely a disappointment.”
Put to Young that United had been doing pretty well, he told MUTV: “Yeah, especially in the first half.
“Obviously after their goal we got ourselves back into the game and I think for large parts we had time and space on the ball to play.
“I think at times we done that, I think we could have done that even more. But, like I say, we’ve come off the pitch, we’ve lost the game, so we’re disappointed in there.”
Young was quick to express thanks to United’s travelling hordes at Anfield – supporters that have a long trip to Cardiff to come on Saturday as Mourinho’s men look for a much-needed win.
“They’re fantastic and they have been all season,” he said of the fans. “Obviously for them it’s disappointing as well as for us.
“Like we say, we’ve got to try and take the positives out of the game and be ready for the next game.
“When you lose a game, there’s obviously disappointment and you want a game straight away.
“Obviously we have to wait a week so we’ve got to prepare for that game and hopefully go there and get the three points.”
The result was harsh on United’s defenders, as Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, and Eric Bailly put in excellent displays, with the latter especially unfortunate as he provided a telling deflection on Liverpool’s game-clinching goal.
Bailly’s all-action display caught the eye despite that moment. Here’s a closer look at his performance.
Tackles – 5
Tackle success rate – 83%
Interceptions – 7
Dribbles – 1
Clearances – 3
Passing accuracy – 74%
Drafted in after an injury in the pre-match warm-up to Chris Smalling, Bailly slotted into the centre of Jose Mourinho’s back three. Bailly helped United withstand some early pressure, though he was powerless to stop Liverpool’s opener.
Bailly continued to battle, and even helped set up a United attack with a lung-busting run. But his horror moment would come as he went to close down a Xherdan Shaqiri shot, only to deflect it past David De Gea to give the Swiss forward his second goal.
28 – Manchester United have now conceded 28 goals in the Premier League this season, equalling the number the Red Devils conceded in the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign. Porous. pic.twitter.com/slb9AGdH00— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2018
Tackling and Positional play
Bailly’s resoluteness in defence was impressive, as his partnership with Lindelof did a good job of keeping Liverpool’s high-flying front three at bay. The Ivorian kept popping up to make important tackles.
Even more impressive was his reading of the game, as he often stepped up to cut out passes or simply positioned himself perfectly to prevent an attacking pass getting through.
Though Liverpool dominated the game, given Bailly’s efforts the winning margin – coming as it did from two deflected goals – was harsh on him.
Ultimately, when a team concedes three times, questions will be asked of the defence. And Bailly, who also scored an own goal when Liverpool visited Old Trafford last season, will probably feel he could have done a better job of closing down Shaqiri’s shot, even if the deflection was unlucky.
Equally, he should have been asking his midfielders to get tighter to Liverpool’s players, and he definitely could have spotted Mane’s run for the first goal and communicated with Ashley Young.
Eric Bailly made 5 interceptions in the first half vs. Liverpool, 3 more than Liverpool's entire team combined.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 16, 2018
Impressive. 🇨🇮 pic.twitter.com/aSq6TblBth
Few people will remember that this was a battling defensive performance from Bailly, who held his own against Liverpool’s much-vaunted attack. Though United didn’t look like scoring, at 2-1 there was always a chance that they could equalise; Bailly’s intervention to deflect Shaqiri’s shot into his own net killed all hope.
Where that leaves the centre-back is anyone’s guess. Bailly has been working his way back into Mourinho’s good graces. Whether the manager will remember the overall performance or the deflection remains to be seen.
RATING – 6/10
Xherdan Shaqiri rose from the bench to secure three vital points and bragging rights over rivals Manchester United after his double sealed a 3-1 win at Anfield.
Sadio Mane had expertly opened the scoring in the 24th minute after athletically finishing from Fabinho’s delicately lofted ball into the box.
The lead would only last nine minutes, however, as Alisson spilled a Romelu Lukaku cross to allow Jesse Lingard to slot home United’s equaliser.
But the home side were rewarded for their attacking and possession dominance as second-half substitute Shaqiri’s two deflected strikes, one in the 73rd minuted and the second in the 80th minute, saw Liverpool return to the top of the Premier League.
BETRAYAL OF HISTORY
The statistics were already damning about Jose Mourinho’s egregious – and infamous – third season at United.
After the cowardice displayed on derby day at Anfield, they are now unforgivable and his position utterly untenable. Proud United traditions dictate such a limited approach demands instant, and decisive, reproach.
This supine tactical retreat featured a historic 36 attempts on goal from the hosts. This is the most conceded by the Red Devils since records began in the Premier League.
No wonder when you play three holding midfielders in the second half, with the trio all, seemingly, told to retreat at 1-1 and flood your own penalty box.
Don’t forget, this is the same Liverpool who have curtailed attacking ambitions this term with an injection of pragmatism.
The three strikes conceded, in total, means it is now 29 goals let in during 17 top-flight matches. This is one more than the entirety of 2017/18.
With Mourinho is such indignant mood and, seemingly, set on career suicide, it is no surprise to see a 19-point gap to leaders Liverpool from sixth place – the most between them at this stage of the season.
26 - Manchester United have picked up 26 points after their first 17 Premier League games; their worst points haul in the top-flight at this stage since 1990-91 (also 26 points). Dip. pic.twitter.com/FI2avHKq1D— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 16, 2018
Opposite number Jurgen Klopp has been backed to the hilt to end his Reds trophy drought. But he provides significant return on investment and authoritative, energising and winning football.
For Mourinho, Paul Pogba was an unused £89.9 million substitute and £47m colleague Fred didn’t even make the match-day 18. £19m right-back Diogo Dalot was hooked at half-time.
Craven performances have become the depressing norm for Mourinho in 2018/19.
CURIOUS CASE OF ERIC BAILLY
Eric Bailly was United’s best defender against Arsenal, shutting down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang like few others have done during his prolific – near – year in the Premier League.
Bailly was, again, United’s best defender at Anfield. This time, he went from forgotten part on the substitutes’ bench to last-minute call-up as Chris Smalling’s persistent foot problem flared up in the warm-up.
He responded with a team high seven interceptions and five tackles. The deflection on Shaqiri’s second, and Liverpool’s third, was borne of competitive desire to close down.
When the Ivory Coast international is capable of such redoubtable display, how can anomalies like his woeful 19 minutes against Newcastle United happen and why did he not initially start at Anfield? Largely free from persistent injury that curtailed his startling 2016/17 debut campaign, why was this just a fifth Premier League start of the season?
GOAL Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd (80 mins)— Premier League (@premierleague) December 16, 2018
Liverpool have surely won it now! Shaqiri runs on to a loose ball and his effort deflects off Bailly and beyond the diving De Gea#LIVMUN
Raw edges remain on the Ivory Coast centre-back’s game. He plays on instinct and relies on athleticism – traits not unfamiliar to a club that had Nemanja Vidic grace its backline from 2006-14.
Mourinho’s jarred relationship with Pogba dominates discourse about his discordant and dated man-management at United.
The Portuguese’s failure to inspire regular top-class displays from Bailly, however, is just as damning.