Given the gigantic leap forward Manchester United has made this year, it’s easy to forget that they’re still, very much, a work in progress. Despite the clear success of winning the League Cup, knocking Barcelona out of the Europa League, progressing to the quarterfinals of the F.A. Cup and sitting in third place in the Premier League, Manchester United were always at least one or two years away from truly contending for multiple trophies and going toe-to-toe with the best clubs in the world.

United got a pretty painful wakeup call on Sunday, getting annihilated at Anfield by a score of 7-0.

The warning signs were there. In midweek, United looked slow and somewhat hungover against West Ham in the FA Cup but rallied to win 3-1.

Their magic ran out on Sunday, however. While the scoreline somewhat flattered Liverpool– United were, arguably better in the first half, but then they gave up two goals to start the second half and started chasing the game, leading to additional scoring opportunities– it didn’t change the fact that United got utterly dominated by a team that has been stuck in second gear for most of the season.

United deserved to lose and there was plenty of blame to go around (the Manchester Evening News gave every single player a score of “1” — and that seemed generous). Casemiro played one of his worst games in a United shirt, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane did their best impersonation of bullfighters as Liverpool players routinely got behind them, Bruno Fernandes looked like he was genuinely torn between whether to kill players on the other team or his own, Luke Shaw went from Shawberto Carlos to Richard Shawkersley, and Diogo Dalot, Fred, Marcus Rashford, Wout Weghorst and Antony were completely anonymous.

Perhaps most troubling, United looked tired and worn down. Including Sunday’s debacle, United have played 21 matches since the World Cup, five more than Liverpool and have played two-matches a week almost every week since the restart. Things could get worse in the coming months, what with FA Cup and Europa League matches, as well as a mandated break for King Charles III’s coronation.

Whereas the reverse fixture in August helped usher in United’s run of good form, this result could be the start of a decline if the players and coaching staff don’t pick themselves up and move on.

Unfrozen Caveman Law Writer

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