Mark Ogden: Old Trafford has turned into a torture chamber for United
Published 09/02/2014 | 18:30
As Manchester United’s downtrodden players left the Old Trafford pitch at half-time against Fulham, ‘Glory, Glory Man Utd,’ boomed out of the PA system.
Never mind that David Moyes’s players were trailing 1-0 to a Fulham team who had started the day rock bottom of the Premier League, the rebel-rousing United anthem was given an airing, perhaps in a desperate effort to lull the home supporters into a false sense of security that everything would be alright in the second-half.
They are getting used to hoping in vain at the Theatre of Dreams this season and Fulham were simply the latest team to make it feel more like a torture chamber.
Just when a rare fightback victory looked set to banish the gloom, Darren Bent’s equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time took the wind out of United’s sail and plunged them back into misery.
When Steve Sidwell put Rene Meuelensteen’s team ahead on 19 minutes, slotting past David de Gea after the United defence parted like the Red Sea, it was the 13th time in the Premier League this term that Moyes’s players have fallen behind.
On eight of those occasions, United were unable to turn the tide and drag themselves back into the game.
Only Sunderland, Stoke City and Hull City had succumbed to United in the league this season after taking the lead – proof, if required, that Fergie Time elapsed for United when Sir Alex Ferguson vacated the stage last May.
What does that say about Moyes and what does it say about his players?
Ferguson’s success at United was built on his readiness to gamble, to be bold and the inner belief that his team never lost, but merely ran out of time.
With Moyes, regardless of this win, there is rarely the sense that his players will produce what United were once renowned for, those late fightbacks and points snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Perhaps it is the predictability of United’s approach play – the aimless bursts down the wings in an attempt to cross from the bye-line (81 crosses in this match) – which gives opponents the confidence to sit back and frustrate.
Despite the acquisition of £37.1m club record signing Juan Mata – wastefully deployed on the right flank at the start of the game – United showed little inclination to carve Fulham apart through the centre of the pitch, with quick interplay between their highly-rated forwards.
And that has been the same story throughout this season. Aside from the fightbacks against Hull, Stoke and Sunderland, it had been a sorry tale of failure.
Fulham will go down as another of those dismal days when United simply could not get themselves over the line.
So much for glory, glory Man Utd.