Well, what was that? 2-0 up, then 3-1 up, then 5-3 down. United arrived in Leicaster hoping to win two games in a row for only the second time in 2014; they left a hideous, comical shambles.
For a few, brief seconds, it looked as though it was going to be an easy afternoon for United. After a quiet opening, the first goal came from the head of Robin van Persie after good work down the left from Radamel Falcao. A slight deflection did for Kaspar Schmeichel at his near post. They then doubled the lead on 16 minutes in fine style. Angel di Maria collected the ball in midfield and drove forward at pace, leaving the home midfielders chasing shadows. After an exchange of passes with Wayne Rooney, he lifted a delicate chip over Kasper Schmeichel's head and into the net for one of the goals of the season so far.
Then, a sign of things to come, Leonardo Ulloa immediately pulled one back for the home team. Jamie Vardy pursued a ball down the United left and whipped a cross into the penalty area. Though Jonny Evans marking empty space and Rafael on the wrong side of the Argentine, it still took an excellent header from twelve yards to beat De Gea.
Stlil, a 2-1 lead at half time was quickly extended after the break, after Di Maria's shot was either deflected or neatly diverted -- pick your favourite -- by Ander Herrera. A two goal lead, and if United were a sensible, capable football team, that would have been that.
They're not, and it wasn't. While Leicester's second goal came from two refereeing decisions of almost incomprehensible inadequacy -- Rafael, clearly fouled by Jamie Vardy, was then whistled for contact in the area that looked glancing at best, imaginary at worst. Still, it was another piece of obtuse thinking from the Brazilian, and David Nugent slotted the penalty away. Mere moments later a sliced Wayne Rooney clearance found its way, via a couple of passes and some chaotic defending, to the feet of Esteban Cambiasso. 3-3.
At which point, United imploded. The fourth came after United surrendered possession in midfield; it took nothing more complicated than a long ball over the top to open United up, and Vardy finished past a static De Gea. The fifth came from another clipped pass forward. Tyler Blackett was weak challenging for the header, then risible in lunging in to tackle Vardy from behind. Another penalty, a red card, and the humiliating icing on the embarrassing cake.
United's positives were few and far between. Falcao made one goal and hit the bar with a fine effort; Di Maria shimmered with menace for the first hour, and his removal seemed idiosyncratic to say the least. Beyond them, very little: the defence were chaotic when they weren't imserable, the midfield were bypassed far too easily, and Wayne Rooney, given the role behind the strikers he apparently craves, demonstrated once again that his touch and his passing are at times far, far below the standard required.
But even more so, four goals conceded in twenty minutes is a collapse of staggering proportions, one that simply should not be possible. A team battling relegation would have been embarrassed to fall asleep and apart in that manner; for a team with self-proclaimed Champions League aspirations, there is simply no excuse.