Being a clear-minded and sober presentation of the arguments for and against the proposition: A Manchester United fan should respond to the 4-0 defeat by Chelsea by panicking wildly.
You should absolutely PANIC
Because it appears that the crumb of comfort from the nil-nil draw against Liverpool -- that here was a team and a manager starting to work in sync with one another -- was an illusion. Not a crumb at all, or perhaps a crumb of something else. A tiny fragment of cake left over on a plate that turns out, once it's in your mouth, to be dust, or cat litter, or something unrecognisable beyond Not Cake. At least they look like they're starting to become a Mourinho si— wait, no. Chris! The ball! Daley! The man! David! David! What are you— oh God.
Wait, DON'T PANIC
All that said, unless Mourinho gave Chris Smalling the specific instruction "go out and defend like a drunken Weeble", we're not sure how much of the defensive horrorshow can be blamed on the manager. The goals looked less like a systemic unpicking; more like a defence and a goalkeeper losing their concentration and their communication within 30 seconds of the game starting, then going two down after a deflection into another deflection and across the box, then basically chucking it in. That idea that those three players might combine to this level of awfulness regularly is a little fanciful.
Right, but good teams are supposed to respond to setbacks by doing something at the other end. United responded by doing … well, not quite nothing, but as close to nothing as makes no odds. After an early flurry of goals and once outstanding all-round performance against Leicester, Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks quite a lot like a 34-year-old, Paul Pogba is still fading into and out of focus like it's the end of Back to the Future and his parents still aren't speaking to each other, and writing anything else about Marouane Fellaini would probably, at this point, count as bullying. Defensive chaos can happen from time to time. Attacking flatness is happening far too often.
Hang on, DON'T PANIC
Sometimes, football teams lose. Sometimes, football teams lose heavily. Alex Ferguson's Manchester United once lost 5-0 to Newcastle and 6-3 to Southampton in a single week, and they were the best team in the country come the end of the season. They also lost, at various other times, 6-1 to City, 5-1 to City, 5-0 to Chelsea, 4-1 to Liverpool, 4-1 to Spurs and 3-0 to York City. Terrible things can happen when one side fails to turn up and the other turns right up. Particularly when they, as with Chelsea, have a few decent players hanging around the place.
No, definitely PANIC
But what does that say about Mourinho? As has been pointed out by almost every paper since Sunday's game, it's rare to see a game in which both sides performances reflect badly on just one of the managers. Yet not only were United a mess at the back and lacklustre everywhere else, but Chelsea showed everything that they failed to muster last season. They were sharp, they were committed, they were palpably enjoying their football … and they were mostly the same players Mourinho left behind. Perhaps they just had a point to prove? Perhaps that's no real comfort either.
Seriously though, DON'T PANIC
This is going to be a weird season. United's defeat may have been individually frustrating, but they're still only six points off the top of the league. Could have been fewer had they not made fools of themselves, but could easily have been more had City and Arsenal not had their own peculiar days. This isn't looking like a ninety to ninety-five point season, and that means United have time to sort themselves out without being cut adrift. Once City in the League Cup has gone, United have got games against Burnley and Swansea to pick up a little bit of momentum.
Definitely feels appropriate to PANIC
Look, Eric Bailly's out for at least a month, which leaves Chris Smalling and Daley Blind as the defensive options. Smalling might be injured and might not be good enough, the manager appears have hurled Morgan Schneiderlin and Henrikh Mkhitaryan down the memory hole to keep Bastian Schweinsteiger company, keeps picking Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini ahead of palpably superior footballers, and hasn't been seen smiling in public once since he got the job. He's as broken as his squad.
Please, I'm begging you, DON'T PANIC
Because panicking, ultimately, is not sensible or sustainable and will only ruin your day. Mourinho lost his job at Chelsea on the back of one appalling half-season, but he was able to take the United job thanks to three consecutive seasons of weird underperformance. Which means that he's arrived to find a motley and peculiar squad built according to the whims of four different managers plus Ed Woodward plus whoever's been loudest in the scouting department plus the Glazers. And while it's perfectly understandable to be disappointed in performances and concerned about things in general, writing everything off at this stage will only ruin your day. Managers used to get two or three seasons to give their jobs a decent crack. They should still get a minimum of one.
Too late. Going to PANIC
Oh God, he's not Special any more, the club's a mess, the Megastore's on fire, the Trinity statues have turned their backs, Fred the Red's been nailed for tax evasion, the health inspectors have shut down Lou Macari's Fish & Chip Shop, Paul Pogba's wrenched his dabbing shoulder, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's bun has fallen out, Wayne Rooney's hair has grown back too much and now covers his entire body, Juan Mata's little acorn coracle has been stolen by rampaging City supporters, Marouane Fellaini hasn't noticed anything's wrong, Timothy FosuMensah's misplaced his hyphen, nobody's seen Henrikh Mkhitaryan for days, the Official Noodle Partner's starting to get itchy feet, Antonio Valencia just used his left foot, there's a persistent drumming sound on the edge of hearing, the air seems thicker, somehow, the clouds seem heavier, the nights are drawing in closer and colder than winter would demand, Matt Busby's statue is weeping tears of blood, the grass at Old Trafford has turned black and curled and crumbled to dust, it has been poisoned by the light, there are teeth around the edge of the tunnel, there are teeth.