Post-match Old Trafford moment showed fans are in agreement over who is to blame for Man Utd mess

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There were more jeers and boos after Manchester United's defeat against Bournemouth.

Erik ten Hag made a point of gathering Manchester United’s players for a pre-match squad picture on Friday, to show the unity of this lavishly assembled group.

The Dutchman also claimed United are now in a ‘better place’ than they were at the start of the campaign, with performances ‘improving’, while adding that the belief is getting ‘stronger’. None of that was evident at Old Trafford on Saturday, as Bournemouth so easily dispatched the Red Devils.

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Three months ago, United had gone 31 games at home without losing, now they’ve lost six of the last 11 Old Trafford encounters, and the 3-0 defeat against Bournemouth was the worst result of what has been a disastrous season. Supporters made their feelings clear with boos at half-time, full-time and after the third goal. The latter was accompanied by a mass exodus of those inside the ground.

United fans had mocked the away corner in the first half, asking them to ‘sing us a song’ - by the end it was those who had made the long journey from the south coast who were making all the noise, with chants of ‘is there a fire drill?’ and ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’.

But it was the players who bore the brunt of those jeers and the Stretford End boos peaked as the squad made their way to the tunnel. The verdict was clear. The majority of football supporters aren’t stupid, they know when they’re being taken for a ride, and that was another unacceptable display from United. Boos were once rare inside Old Trafford, now they’ve become the norm, but Saturday’s felt particularly pointed.

If any player embodies United’s decline, it’s Anthony Martial. Expensive, talented and experienced, yet he offers almost nothing in games. Just before half-time, his overhit pass to Alejandro Garnacho drew a furious reaction from the home fans, while what should have been a simple control from a 50th-minute throw-in resulted in the ball rolling over the sideline. 

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Ten Hag claimed after the match that Martial has ‘competences and abilities’, but the reaction of United fans on Saturday suggests otherwise. They’re fed up with the ineffective Frenchman and the biggest cheer on Saturday came when he was replaced by Rasmus Hojlund in the early stages of the second half.

Martial languidly trudged round the side of the pitch after he was withdrawn, moving at the sort of pace he’d shown during the previous 56 minutes. There was no interaction with the crowd, no applause or any sign of gratitude. There used to be a question of whether the 28-year-old could turn things around, now the only question is whether he’ll leave in January or next summer.

That Ten Hag had no option but to start Martial is a damning indictment of the club’s transfer policy stretching back over several years. Fans’ preferred choice up front is a juvenile striker who is yet to net in 12 Premier League appearances, and Hojlund had almost no impact after his introduction.

Antony was also wasteful, Luke Shaw looked awkward at centre-back, Scott McTominay didn’t create a single chance for team-mates and Bruno Fernandes’ petulant booking will see him miss the trip to Anfield next week.

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The 3-0 scoreline was unacceptable and it could have been more given that Bournemouth saw two goals chalked off and hit the post. Yet this wasn’t even the worst display of the season, at least Saturday’s performance included some semblance of an attacking plan and fluency on the ball. But it all broke down in the final third, with United incapable of finding a way past the opposition, while the Cherries repeatedly breezed through United’s porous midfield with ease.

With Bayern Munich and Liverpool up next, this could get worse before it gets better, and then it’s a trip to face West Ham United before Christmas, and a manager who knows a thing or two about riding out an Old Trafford storm. The pressure is undeniably mounting on Ten Hag, and he admitted post-match that his squad are ‘not good enough to be consistent’.

The ex-Ajax boss appears to still retain enough support from match-going fans and the boos on Saturday were clearly directed at the players, not the manager. How long that lasts is anyone’s guess.

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