Autopsies are often conducted in the wake of derby losses, but there was something about the amount of feathers floating around the BT studio at Anfield that told you things must change at Manchester United, and soon.
Is it all Louis van Gaal’s fault? Probably not, but he has to take the majority of the blame.
The Dutchman’s time has looked borrowed at best as the season has unfolded and this latest stinging loss to Liverpool in Europe only gives his detractors more ammo with which to fire at him.
Ladbrokes’ latest special, which deems it as likely as 2/9 that LVG finishes his second campaign at Old Trafford empty handed, probably sums up the general consensus among Red Devils fans perfectly.
Perhaps a third trophy-less season since Sir Alex Ferguson finally took a back seat would be acceptable, if the club were perceived to be heading in the right direction.
If you listened to impassioned pairing Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes in the pundit chairs after United’s meek Anfield submission, then that direction is not in any way the right one.
Here are five things Jose Mourinho, or any other potential heir to Van Gaal might wish to implement.
1. Sell Marouane Fellaini
Whether the Belgian deserves it or not he has become a symbol of United’s decaying identity on the pitch and is regularly described as a most ‘un-Manchester United-like’ player. The former Evertonian followed David Moyes from Goodison Park for a princely sum in 2013 and could be a very useful acquisition if deployed correctly – just not at Old Trafford.
2. Buy a world class centre-half (or two)
You have to feel for Michael Carrick and to a lesser extent Daley Blind. Seeing Manchester United operating with Carrick as a makeshift centre-back for 45 minutes in a game of such magnitude (and failing miserably) while Blind – long-standing makeshift centre-back – was shifted out to left-back, looking like he’d forgotten how to ride that particular bike, was painful. Many a stellar name has been linked to rescuing the Red Devils, but the likes of Sergio Ramos et al haven’t materialised. This summer, one of them must.
3. Purchase a top-level target man
If central defence is screaming out for a boss in the mould of Nemanja Vidic, then the frontline is equally bereft of a Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Marcus Rashford offers great hope for the future, but his greenness was exposed against Liverpool and although Anthony Martial is also a very fine prospect, the Frenchman is not yet a natural number nine, and perhaps is better suited to a wide forward position. Wayne Rooney is of course one answer. However, the injured skipper’s most suitable slot in the team as he enters the twighlight of his career is unanimously accepted to be at 10 or perhaps even deeper.
4. Restore an attacking playing style
LVG is known to crave possession over most other things where his teams are concerned and his United side have been labelled turgid among other names because of this. Recycling the ball had its place under Ferguson, but it was near the bottom of the Scotsman’s list of loves. The club’s most successful manager of all time constantly developed sides that played expansive, risk-taking football where wingers were implored to dribble and cross. Whoever gets the gig needs to bring a similar philosophy back to Old Trafford.
5. Sign another highly-promising goalkeeper
David De Gea (as Scholes an Ferdinand eluded to) has been saving even rosier Manchester cheeks for the best part of three seasons. The Spaniard will almost certainly secure his move to Real Madrid this summer and whoever is in charge at Old Trafford will face an enormous challenge in replacing him.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.