Manchester United suffered a shocking 2-1 upset at the hands of Huddersfield Town on Saturday afternoon. Here are three quick thoughts on the match.
United needs to snap out of it
Since returning from the international break, Manchester United has looked different — and worse. Gone is the ruthlessness in front of goal, dominant midfield, and assured defense. Last week’s uninspiring scoreless draw against Liverpool at Anfield could be excused as a slight hiccup after an excellent start, but the narrow 1-0 win over Benfica and Saturday’s defeat to Huddersfield Town have been similarly dour.
From the opening whistle, Manchester United had its hands full at the John Smith’s Stadium. An early clash between Anthony Martial and Huddersfield Town captain Tommy Smith put both sides on alert for a physical contest. With the weather steadily worsening and yellow cards brandished in all directions after a chippy start, it seemed ideal conditions for a José Mourinho team.
But, despite United’s dominance in possession, the Terriers carved out the better chances. Two first-half goals — both resulting from critical defensive errors — put an end to the club’s unbeaten league start.
Most worryingly, all has gone quiet on the United frontline. Romelu Lukaku has not scored in his last three outings and, in that time, the club’s only goal was from a Marcus Rashford free kick. United must quickly rekindle the free-flowing attacking impetus that propelled them through the first two months of the season.
Injury crisis getting serious
The last thing Jose Mourinho needed was another injury to deal with — but, unfortunately, that’s exactly what he got. When Phil Jones hobbled off the pitch in the 23rd minute Saturday, he joined Eric Bailly, Michael Carrick, Paul Pogba, and Marouane Fellaini on the United training table. Jones’s withdrawal directly led to Huddersfield Town’s second goal, as his replacement, Victor Lindelöf, comically misjudged a clearing header that allowed Laurent Depoitre a clear run at goal.
Instead of heaping blame on Lindelöf, Mourinho turned his ire on the entire squad: “It’s not fair to say that the mistakes were responsible for the defeat, because the mistakes were in the context of the overall performance. If we are playing amazingly well and then we lose because of an individual mistake, then we can say, ‘Okay, we lost because of an individual mistake’. But, no, since the first minute, the game was poor for us.”
There has been no word from the club about Jones’s prognosis, but Bailly looks to be close to a return. Fellaini faces another week on the sidelines and no one seems to have any clue when Pogba might be back. If Manchester United hopes to get back to winning ways, some of these key contributors need to get fit as soon as possible.
Defense falls short of history
Manchester United entered Saturday’s match on the verge of setting an English top-flight record for defensive excellence. With seven clean sheets in the opening eight league games, the club needed just one more shutout to enter the record books. And Huddersfield Town seemed easy prey — having failed to score in its last four outings.
This chance at history, though, came to an abrupt end in the 28th minute. Aaron Mooy pounced on a David De Gea rebound to open the scoring and stun a listless United squad. Huddersfield Town added a second shortly thereafter, putting the match out of reach.
To be fair, Huddersfield Town pierced a United backline missing both first-choice center-backs. Eric Bailly continues to recover from a groin injury, while Phil Jones exited in the 23rd minute with an unspecified injury. Victor Lindelöf’s howler to allow the second goal will draw the headlines and jeers, but most concerning was the overall lack of effort and attitude throughout the whole team.
Mourinho expressed his disgust afterwards, saying, “I like to lose matches because the opponents were better than us and had more quality than us. When you lose a match because of attitude, that’s really bad.”