West Ham 3-1 Manchester United: What did we learn as United suffer their worst start in 29 years

Crashing out of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Championship side Derby six days ago, it seemed unlikely things could get worse for Manchester United.

However, a week that has been plagued by off-field issues with Paul Pogba, United put on yet another lackluster performance on Saturday.

Slumping to a 3-1 loss against a resurgent West Ham, Jose Mourinho’s side have now suffered their worst start in 29 years.

Now sat 10th in the table, it seems that any dreams of a title push have quickly disappeared.

With two wins in their last six Premier League outings, what did we take away from the London Stadium?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 02: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United walks past Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United as he is substituted during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester United at Turf Moor on September 2, 2018 in Burnley, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

1. Mourinho’s tactics backfire

While United’s now-former captain may have called for a more attacking approach last week, Mourinho couldn’t have taken a more opposite stance on Saturday.

Electing to play a 3-5-2, the decision to use Scott McTominay at right centre-back ahead of Eric Bailly raised plenty of eyebrows prior to kick off.

A formation that is used to allow quick, dynamic football, Mourinho’s choice to start Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic almost made his tactics void.

With a lack of mobility in the center of the park and United unable to gain an understanding of their positioning, an inspired Mark Noble dominated the midfield battle.

Instead of setting down a marker early, the visitors were happy to just allow West Ham to control the tempo of the game.

Unable to gain any real foothold over the 90 minutes, United were desperately crying out for a creative spark in the rare occasions they did venture forward.

While Alexis Sanchez wasn’t even named among the substitutes, Jesse Lingard didn’t even make the trip to the capital.

Despite hitting the outside of the post in the first half, Romelu Lukaku was a spectator for large spells of the game.

His partner for the day, Anthony Martial was somehow even more non-existent before being replaced after 70 minutes.

The fact that United abandoned the 3-5-2 just after the hour mark should tell you everything you need to know.

Even though Marcus Rashford immediately offered them some hope, Mourinho’s questionable tactics had already done the damage.

His decision to once again resort to hitting long balls in search of Fellaini couldn’t be further from the style Sir Alex made famous at Old Trafford.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 29: Felipe Anderson of West Ham United scores the opening goal pass David De Gea of Manchester United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at London Stadium on September 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

2. Man United’s worst start in nearly three decades

From an outsiders perspective, it appears that the third season syndrome is fully underway.

Picking up just 10 points out of a possible 21, they have now equaled David Moyes start to the 2013/2014 campaign.

However, picking up just one clean sheet in their opening seven Premier League games, this has been their worst start since 1989.

Already nine points adrift of Manchester City, their 12 goals conceded means they now hold the worst defensive record in the top half of the table.

While Mourinho’s tactics will only add to the pressure on his position, his players have also been a key factor in United’s woeful start to the season.

Questioning his side’s lack of effort in their 1-1 draw with Wolves, the stats on Saturday once again tell a worrying story.

Despite being introduced with just 18 minutes to go, only three of United’s players completed more sprints than West Ham substitute Robert Snodgrass.

Completing just 59 sprints combined, while Liverpool, in stark contrast, made 154 sprints in their 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

In fact, over the weekend, no team in the Premier League attempted fewer sprints than United.

With Mourinho’s ongoing war with Pogba clearly taking its toll, the signs suggest United’s players aren’t exerting themselves for their manager.

Now without a win in their last three in all competitions, the Reds will welcome Valencia to Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Although the more vocal parts of the Stretford End may still back Mourinho, his position is certainly becoming more untenable by the week.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 29: Felipe Anderson of West Ham United celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at London Stadium on September 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

3. West Ham’s front three can cause anyone problems

While United find their morale at an all-time low, Manuel Pellegrini’s side appear to be starting to find their stride.

With their opening four defeats now a thing of the past, West Ham marched onto four games unbeaten in empathic fashion.

Although United flattered to deceive once again, much of the credit must go to Saturday’s hosts.

Returning to West Ham’s starting XI after recovering from a minor knee injury, Marko Arnautovic once again cemented his position as the Hammers’ talisman.

Scoring their third, the 29-year-old was a constant nuisance for what is quickly becoming an increasingly leaky United defence.

The Austrian international now has four in his last five.

Keeping hold of their leading goalscorer must be their top priority in January.

A large part of Arnautovic’s early success has come down to the impacts of summer arrivals Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko.

Opening the scoring on Saturday with a sublime flick past David de Gea, Anderson, in particular, looks to be going from strength to strength.

West Ham’s £37million man has a similar flair to former fan favourite Dimitri Payet.

Fans in East London will be hoping that this relationship has a happier ending.

With West Ham’s attacking trio appearing to build a real chemistry, they have all been directly involved in all six of their last Premier League goals.

It wasn’t just in the final third where West Ham’s wingers showed their importance to Pellegrini’s side.

Working in front of Arthur Masuaku and Pablo Zabaleta respectively, the pair put in a tireless performance in both ends of the pitch.

Making 10 interceptions on Saturday, no player won the ball back more than the former Lazio winger.

Cutting the options to both Ashley Young and Luke Shaw, the duo were among many Hammers who could have left with the Man of the Match award.

With a new found energy around the London Stadium, could a Europan push be on for the West Ham?

Related:

Manchester United vs Valencia betting tips: Champions League match preview & predictions.

Jose Mourinho singles out journalist during press conference.

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