NEVER in 22 years of covering Manchester United have I witnessed such a shameful disregard for the honour of wearing that famous badge.
Yes, there have been bad seasons and bad performances. But nothing like the pathetic collective downing of tools at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked last Wednesday about how fortunate this group was to be playing for this huge club.
Forget it, Ole. You might get it — but they don’t. How could they retreat to their gated Cheshire mansions after that with anything but shame as their over-riding emotion?
The thing is, they know the buck will stop at Ole. They can hide, as they did in full view of the watching world against Liverpool.
They can still pick up their wages and send out meaningless apologies on social media, hoping that will abdicate them of any guilt.
Solskjaer is the one who will be left to carry the can. He will be the one losing his job. Because he cannot go on with the team in this current state.
The word ‘team’ should not be applied to this group. That suggests a collective, a coming together, a cause.
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This was a group of individuals on Sunday, with their own agendas. Yes, even returning hero Cristiano Ronaldo.
If not, why did he risk a red card with the awful way he whacked the ball into the groin of Curtis Jones as he lay on the turf?
Bruno Fernandes was flapping around as if the humiliation was out of his hands.
As for Paul Pogba, he should never be allowed to wear the shirt again. He clearly felt he was being humiliated.
A World Cup winner, a multiple Scudetto winner, an £89million signing — yet he was left out of the starting line-up for the biggest home game of the season.
Then at 4-0 down at half-time, he was called upon to show what he can do. He was soon heading for an early bath for that crazy tackle on Naby Keita.
Captain Harry Maguire talked about the players needing to look in the mirror.
Maguire had taken on the role of captain well since being given the armband — but he knows no one is listening. How can his voice have any resonance when his form is so shot?
It is not like we haven’t seen Manchester United beaten before.
Even in Sir Alex Ferguson’s time, there would be occasions like a Manchester derby and against Sunday’s opponents when fortunes would be badly reversed.
But you could tell it hurt, you could hear players shouting at each other, you could feel their pain.
The only pain you could feel on Sunday was that of the fans, many of which were losing it big time, walking out, dejected.
On the pitch there was just apathy.
Witness Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson screaming at Jones to track back at one stage, in sharp comparison to the gutless, silent United players.
Henderson’s bellowing came with his side 5-0 up in injury time, while United’s muted players stared into open space at just 2-0 down during a break in play.
Only Maguire and Fred exchanged opinions. Oh to have a Roy Keane out there one last time.
I don’t speak as a Manchester United fan (for the record, I support Newcastle) but I do live among a community of United and City fans.
To chart the day-to-day drama of this football club has been a hell of a ride.
From Manchester to Madrid, then Manhattan, Sydney, Singapore — around the world travelling with the most famous name in the game.
You don’t get just how big this club is until you go to places in the Far East and the United States and see the incredible crowds and reaction.
So the badge has always been one worn by players and fans alike with great pride. Chest always puffed out.
On Sunday, those connected to the club became figures of ridicule.
Solskjaer, who supplied the most famous touch of a ball in the club’s history on a balmy night in Barcelona back in 1999, was stood alone in his technical area — a figure of fun for the visiting Liverpool fans.
‘Ole must stay’, ‘Ole give us a wave’, ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ they chanted.
Is this what it has come too for such a club legend?
He is better off out of it. His great standing in United’s history does not deserve this ending. He comes from another time.
When wearing the United shirt meant something. A time long gone.
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